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Western Lingo Adopts Spanish Words


Many words left behind by early Spanish explorers as they named settlements, bays and rivers along the Pacific Coast, and other words from Mexican cowboy jargon have enriched the Western lingo of Southern Oregon and Northern California.  The word “cowboy” itself comes from vaquero, Spanish for “cowman.”

Who hasn’t heard of a “dude?” The word is derived from the Mexican phrase los dudos, meaning “the doubtful ones;” for example, city slickers who fall off horses.

“Wrangler” comes from caverango.  “Mosquito,” is the diminutive of mosca, or house fly.  Someone might shout, “Vamoose!” to a trespasser.  It comes from vamonos, meaning “let’s go.”

Some other examples of English words derived over the years from Spanish: boots from botas; cockroach from cucaracha; a horse’s cinch from cincha; spurs from espuelas; potato from patata ; quirt, from cuerda; lasso from lazo; mustang from mesteno; rodeo from rodear, which means to encircle; savvy from sabe, which means “to know; the slang word “hoosegow” from juzgado, Spanish for criminal court; stampede from estampida and stirrup from estribo.

Enough!  This is driving the narrator LOCO!

Source: Chavez y Gilbert, Donald. "Origins of the First American Cowboys/Vaquero Cowboy Lingo." Cowboys - Vaqueros. Web. 21 Sept. 2014. .

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Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.