Mountain Man Jargon
What is a Pre-1840 Rendezvous?
A Rendezvous was a pre-determined place and time set for Fur Trappers to meet up with Fur Traders. This kept the Fur Trapper from having to come all the way back to civilization to cash in their Beaver Plews and other furs they had collected. Usually the Trappers or Mountain Men would spend 11 months of the year in the mountains trapping beaver. Beaver was in great demand because its fur. The fur was made into the felt for the Top Hats that became popular in the 1790's. Beaver fur was most desirable in the winter. So the Trapper would struggle through the Rocky Mountain Winter in order to trap them. With winter's cold the Trapper faced the possibility of frostbite, bone numbing cold, running into Ol' Ephraim, or Bug's Boys, or illness. It was a fact that not many Greenhorns made it through the first year. To the Fur Trapper, rendezvous was like our present day state fairs. It was a great time to socialize with other Trappers and to find out what is going on back home. It was also Pay Day! They would bring their furs and trade them for necessities they would need for the upcoming year. Some of the things a Trapper would need are: coffee, sugar, whiskey, pemmican, jerky, lead, blackpowder, traps, clothing, blankets, horses, mules, and Foofuraw. When the trading was over it was time for fun. There was singing, dancing, horse races, foot races, target shooting, knife throwing, gambling, whiskey drinking and yarn telling.
At Rendezvous the language was hard and sounded like this:
ABSAROKEE also Absaroka. The Crow Indian word for their tribe meaning children of the hawk or children of the crow.
AH'LL SWAR BY HOOK I'll swear to it.
APPOLAS sticks sharpend at both ends, stuck in the ground around a fire, on which are jabbed chunks of meat to roast slowly.
ARWERDENTY whiskey, from the Spanish words agua ardiente , which means fiery water .
AUGE FIT a fever, which comes and goes (not uncommon for men who spent a lot of time in waist deep water setting traps).
BACCER or BACCY tobacco.
BALDFACE alcohol.
BANK BEAVER beaver that makes a burrow on the bank of a fast moving river.
BEAVER also Child, Coon, Hos, Niggur terms used for a person, either one's self or someone else, not a derogatory term.
BLACK YOUR FACE AGAINST to go to war with, as in the Indian custom of blackening a face with paint before riding out on a raid.
BOUDIN delicacy of stuffed buffalo intestines. Also boudie .
BUFFLER buffalo. The favorite food of the trapper and Indian alike.
BUFFLER WOOD buffalo chips, dried buffalo dung. Used for fuel in cooking fires.
BUG'S BOYS or BEN JOHNSON'S BOYS blackfoot warriors.
BUSHWAY or Booshway From the French word "bourgeois". This was a company man who supervised the independent
trappers who were forced to work for a fur trapping company. At modern day rendezvous the "Booshway"
is the man or couple in charge of the rendezvous.
BY A LONG CHALK better or worse by a long shot.
COLD DOIN'S frigid weather.
COMPANY MAN an employee of a fur trapping company, looked down upon by the free trappers.
CONSARNED expression of exclamation.
CORNCRACKERS contemptible term used for farmers back East.
DAB castorium. The extract of the two perineal glands of the beaver. Used as a scent to attract beaver to a set
trap. Strong and musky smelling, it is thick and yellow in color.
DARE TO SET used in gambling or betting meaning care to bet?
DURST dare, as in Durst yeh? ( Do you dare? )
EUKER an old time card game.
FEEDBAG eating a meal, also the stomach or abdominal area of the body.
FEELING RIGHT PERT feeling pretty good.
FLATLANDER Term of contempt for someone that was green or new to the mountains.
FOOFURAH FO FARRAW, FOO FURAW trinkets, trade goods, doodads, etc. From the French fanfaron . Every trapper
carried a supply of these items as trade goods.
FOTCH knock or hit another man as in a fight.
FREE TRAPPER the ultimate mountain man. A trapper who was his own boss, a free man not endentured to or working for
a fur trapping company.
GALENA PILL GALEENY PILL lead bullet made from galena lead.
GONE UNDER one who had died or was killed.
GRAININ A SKIN scrapin a skin clean of flesh and fat.
GREEN IS WEARED OFF when a greenhorn becomes a mountain man.
GREENHORN a term to describe the unexperienced newcomer to the mountains.
GREEZ HUNGRY hungry for meat.
HAF FROZE FER HAR or HAF STARVED FER HAR desire to lift a scalp.
HAR YER STICK FLOATS what you do and what you are.
HAWK a tomahawk.
HAWKIN A rifle. One of the most valued rifles in the mountains was the flintlock model made by the Hawken Brothers
HEAP plenty of something.
HEAVY IN HORN a big bull, buffalo or elk.
HENYWAYS YE LAY YER SIGHTS any way you look at it.
HE'S GOT A TOUGH BARK a man has a tough hide, refuses to be killed.
HE'S NOT OPENED HIS HAND not any presents or gifts.
HIT WON SHINE IN THIR CROWD something won't do by mountain man standards.
HIT WON WASH it won't do.
HITS BETTER TER COUNT A HORSES RIBS EN TER COUNT HIS TRACKS trappers adage: better to keep an animal penned up and hobbled than to chase the animal when run off by
HIVERNAN or HIVERNANT a man who had the experience of wintering over in the mountains a year or two. No longer
a greenhorn. They were also known as winterers .
HOLE a secluded mountain valley.
HOLLOW WOODS Indian name for the small kegs used to haul alcohol.
HONEYDEW or OL VIRGINNY terms for tobbaco.
HUGGIN wrestling, usually meaning the wrestling for fun and rendevous.
HYARS DAMP POWDER AN NO WAYS TER DRY HIT a bad situation with seemingly no way out.
JACK OF LIKKER a leather sack of fire water.
JOHN BARLEYCORN alcohol, whiskey.
KALLATE calculate or figure.
KINNIKINIK Indian word for smoking material made from inner bark and leaves of red willow, sumac, dogwood, and other
common trees and bushes. Often mixed with tobacco.
KNOW FAT COW FROM POOR BULL expression used to mean a smart trapper.
MANGEUR DE LARD French, meaning eater of pork . An inexperienced man. Term came from the fact that men from the settlements
ate pork. The diet of the mountain men was buffalo and elk.
MED BEAVER FER lit out for, headed for.
MEK AN INJUN COME to kill an Injun.
MEKKIN MEAT the killing of an animal or a man.
NAYBOBBIN chattering or talking.
NO MORE SIGN EM A SQUAWS HEART very little sign of enemy or game, expresses it's very hard to tell what's in a woman's heart.
OL EPHRAIM also Bar , Grizzly . A Grizzly Bear.
OL HOSS a term to describe someone ( Bill, you ole hoss, I hain't seed you since last ronnyvoo! ).
ON HIS OWN HOOK on his own or by himself.
ON THE PERAIRA on the prairie , used to mean something is for free.
ON THE TRAMP on the move.
PAINTER or PANNER panther, mountain lion.
PAINTER MEAT something good doings.
PALAVER a corruption of the Portugese palavra meaning to talk .
PANNER PISS also called panther piss . A name given to cheap whiskey.
PARFLECHE rawhide for making containers, moccasin soles, shields, and a sort of suitcase. Usually decorated with painted
designs. From the French.
PAUNCH the stomach or meatbag.
PEMMICAN Indian word for pounded dried meat combined with dried berries or currants, mixed with melted fat and stored
in cakes. It could be eaten as it was or turned into a rich soup by adding water and heating over a fire.
PILGRIM a term of contempt to describe someone new to the mountains. Much the same as greenhorn or flatlander .
PIROGUE a canoe made by hollowing out a log. French.
PLEW a beaver pelt. from the French word for plus . Also, the Hudson Bay Company used to mark each made beaver or pelt with a + in their accounting ledgers.
PLUCK courage, guts.
POPO AGIE from the Crow language meaning main river or head river . It is located north of the Sweetwater and south of the Big Horn and Wind Rivers. The site of the 1829, 1830, and 1838 rendezvous.
PORK EATER a term of contempt to describe the company man who usually ate salt pork as part of working for a fur company. (Why would anyone eat pork when they could have elk or buffler?) See: Mangeur de Lard.
POSSIBLES small, but highly important collection of valuables the trapper kept by his side in his shooting pouch, which could mean the difference between life and death when put afoot without a rifle. (Read the book The Saga of Hugh Glass by Myers)
PUNCH THE FIRE stoke up the fire.
PUPS children.
QUEERSOME funny or odd.
QUIT THIS ARRER OUT'N ME cut the arrow out of me.
REAL BEAVER the real thing, the best.
REES Arikara Indians.
REGLAR HAWKEN the very best of something.
REZZED SOME HAR lifted a scalp.
RIGHT THE FIRST WHACK right on the nose, right on the first try.
ROBE WARMER an Indian woman.
RONNYVOO or RONDYVOO rendezvous. The annual summer get-together when the trappers came down out of the mountains to trade furs, swap gossip, and generally have a good time. This was also when the trappers would buy supplies for the coming year in the mountains. These were held annually from 1825 until 1840 except for 1831 when the supply wagons failed to arrive on time.
RUNNING MEAT running game down on horseback.
SEAL FAT AND SLEAK animal pelt or horse that is smooth and well fed.
SHINES that shines means something is suitable or good. Also something very special. ( Thet there flinter of yourn shines, it truly does. )
SHININ TIMES a good and memorable experience, prime trapping, something special.
SHOOT CENTER or PLUM CENTER a trustworthy rifle.
SHOT IN THE LIGHTS shot through the lungs. ( Lights was what the lungs used to be called.) Here's a note from Shoshone Woman on that very same subject: I was talking with one of the HBC members one day about the Haggis recipe that they use to make the annual Haggis pie to be eaten at the Ft. Nisqually Bobby Burns Day celebration. They said it was made of liver, lights, and oatmeal all cooked in the paunch of the animal. So I ask what is the lights? and was told that it was the lungs. So there you go.
SIGN anythings that tells the trapper something about the country he's in.
SKELP LOCKED ON TIGHT expression meaning a trapper good enough to keep his hair.
SKY PILOT a preacher.
SLIK AS SHOOTING something done very well by trapper standards.
SNORTIN WITH FUNK horse animal or man wheezing and coughing after a hard run.
SOME PUNKINS something or somebody extraordinarily nice.
SOURS MY MILK upsets me.
SQUAMPSHUS LIKE nervous or anxious feeling.
TAKE A HORN take a drink.
THE WHOLE CONSARN the whole thing.
THROWING BUFFLER to shoot a buffalo with one clean shot dropping in his tracks.
TICKLED TAT NIGGERS HUMPRIBS stabbed an Indian between the ribs in the back.
TRAPPERS OATH pledge of truth in what a man says, taken by placing the muzzle of a rifle in his mouth to signify that he is telling the truth or promises to do something.
UP TO GREEN RIVER plunge a knife up to the trade mark on the blade near the handle (Russell Green River Works knives).
VOYAGEUR French for traveler. French-Canadian boat or canoe handler. Voyageurs did the hard pulling to get a keelboat upriver.They were thought of as cowards and held in contempt by the free trappers.
WAAH! also Waugh! or Wagh! Exclamation of surprise or admiration. Sounded like a grunt.
WADE INTER HIS LIVER stab an enemy in the gut.
WAL, AH'LL BE ET FER A TATER I'll be damned!
WATER SCRAPE the travel though a dry country without water.
WHOLE SHITEREE the whole shebang, the whole works.
WINDIGO among the French-Canadian voyageur, this was thought to be a creature who stood 20-30 feet tall and who roamed the woods in search of prey. The windigo was described as an eater of human flesh. It was used as a sort of 'boogieman and probably had its origin amongst the Indians.
WINTERER someone who has spent some years trapping in Indian country and who has wintered over . Also called a hivernan .
YABBERIN YAHOOS screaming Indians or noisy companions.
YE KIN SLIDE you're crazy or you can go to hell.
YEAR IT RAINED FIRE 1833. A large meteor shower took place on November 12, 1833 attracting much attention all over North America.
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