Dictionary of the American West

Dictionary of the American West

by Win Blevins

Did you ever need to spell "dogie" (as in, get-along-little) or need to know what a "sakey" is? This is the book that can tell you how to spell, pronounce, and define over 5,000 terms relative to the American West.

Want to know what a "breachy" cow is? Turn to page 43 to learn that it's an adjective used to describe a cow that has a tendency to find her way

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Did you ever need to spell "dogie" (as in, get-along-little) or need to know what a "sakey" is? This is the book that can tell you how to spell, pronounce, and define over 5,000 terms relative to the American West.

Want to know what a "breachy" cow is? Turn to page 43 to learn that it's an adjective used to describe a cow that has a tendency to find her way through fences where she isn't supposed to be. Describes some teenagers we know!

Spend hours perusing the dictionary at random, or read straight through to get a flavor of the West from its beginnings to contemporary days. Laced with photographs and maps, the Dictionary of the American West will make you sound like an expert on all things western, even if you don't know a dingus from a dinner plate.

Compiled of words brought into English from Native Americans, emigrants, Mormons, Hispanics, migrant workers, loggers, and fur trappers, the dictionary opens up history and culture in an enchanting way. From "Aarigaa!" to "zopilote," the Dictionary of the American West is a "valuable book, a treasure for any literate

American's library."—Tony Hillerman

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Western novelist Blevins ( The Misadventures of Silk and Shakespeare , LJ 10/1585) has developed this useful and interesting addition to the genre of dictionaries of regionalisms for lay readers. Her book therefore lacks the scholarly approach of Dictionary of American Regional English ( LJ 11/1/85) and Reader's Encyclopedia of the American West (o.p.). However, for those who don't know the difference between aguardiente and leopard sweat, this book is informative and fun. It is more encompassing than similar works, such as Western Words: A Dictionary of the American West and Cowboy Limbo (both o.p.), both by Ramon Adams; or Peter Watts's A Dictionary of the Old West (o.p.). Blevins's work incorporates the language of various Western professions, such as logging and mining, as well as ethnic groups, such as Mormons and Native Americans. Geographically, it ranges from the Klondike to the Southwest. In addition, the words included date from the history of the West to modern bureaucratic phraseology, with cross references, sources, and a pronunciation guide. Recommended for both reference and general entertainment collections. --Daniel Liestman, Seattle Pacific Univ. Lib.
School Library Journal
YA-A lively collection of 5,000 Western terms and expressions from ``a-coming and a-going'' to Zuni. Based on earlier dictionaries of the area but enhanced by the inclusion of such groups as ``women, Indians, Mormons, Hispanics, blacks, French Canadians...,'' the volume contains mostly short definitions of a few lines, but some are more lengthy and include quotes and anecdotes as well as pronunciation guides and cross references. This will be useful for readers of Westerns and for regional and local history collections.
Zom Zoms
This work contains approximately 3,500 entries, providing definitions for 5,000 words and terms pertaining to the American West over the last 200 years. In the introduction, Blevins explains that his objective was to include "women, Indians, Mormons, Hispanics, blacks, French-Canadians, mountain men, half-breeds, immigrants, missionaries, and everyone else" who had been excluded from previous dictionaries of the West. Coverage extends, for example, to the "coureurs de bois" (fur traders) of French Canada, who had their own terminology ("plew", "bourgeois", "voyageur"). Definitions for several Mormon words are included ("stake", "ward", "sealing"), and coverage extends to Native American expressions ("sun dance", "kachina", "sand painting") Most definitions are a few sentences in length, but longer explanations are occasionally provided. For instance, "branding" covers more than one page, including a long quotation from Stewart Edward White's "Arizona Nights". Another example is the entry "yarn", which gives in full a typical tale, exaggerating the size and ferocity of western mosquitoes. Some etymologies are given (e.g., "brujo", "chaparral", "churro"). Also, some disputed word origins are discussed, such as those of "dogie", "greaser", and "gringo". French-derived words are also listed with their original meanings, such as "Coeur d'Alene" and "nez perce". Many definitions include cross-references, indicated by small capital letters A few entries are disappointing. "Mal de vache" is defined as "diarrhea . . . thought to be caused by alkali water or by the change to an all-meat diet." A non-French reader might wonder if "vache" refers to the water or to the meat. Pronunciation is frequently given, especially for non-English words. The author does not make use of accents in the text. Thus, he stumbles over the word "albondiga" (meatball), which he assumes to be Spanish. It is actually Hispanicized Arabic, from "al-bunduqa", meaning "little ball," and it requires a diacritical mark in order to be pronounced correctly The introduction acknowledges the author's dependence on earlier compilations, notably "Western Words" by Ramon Adams (1968), "Southwestern Vocabulary" by Cornelius Smith (1985), and "Dictionary of the Old West" by Peter Watts (1977). Blevins criticizes previous works as unsatisfactory, chiefly because of regional or ethnic limitations. However, he overstates his case by giving examples of words he claims were excluded from other books when, in fact, some of them do appear. Blevins seldom cites sources for the definitions, and when he does so, it is usually Adams; however, Watts, in the work mentioned above, usually cites at least one authority for each definition and often two or three. The book under review concludes with two brief lists containing suggestions for further reading. Some of the sources cited are not specific to the topic, such as standard English dictionaries, a religious encyclopedia, and a field guide to flowers In summary, despite some disappointments, this dictionary of western words is more complete than any of its predecessors and is written in a free-and-easy style, sometimes with interesting quotations. It will find a place in large public and academic libraries. Small public libraries that already own the other three works listed above might find these earlier compilations adequate for their readership.
Blevins, author of popular western novels, defines some 5,000 terms and expressions relevant to cowboy culture, historic and contemporary American Indian culture, ranching, gambling, the fur trade, cattle and horses, and native flora and fauna. The definitions are entertaining and informative. Includes b&w illustrations and a bibliographical essay. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Facts on File, Incorporated
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