Musings and Misadventures

To Cowboy or Not to Cowboy?

I love words. Big ones. Little ones. Slang ones. Ones that are so seeped in regional dialect they don’t even have the same sound as their original version. 

I love how nuanced a word can be depending on context, inflection and tradition. 

Mija is a fine word if you live along the Rio Grande in Texas. It isn’t even actually a word,


but a combination of the Spanish words mi hija (my daughter). It packs a big wallop. If someone calls you that (or the male version, mijo), you are very special to them; inside their circle of protection. It is a very tender word used from older folks to younger ones.


Vuelta is another one of my favorite Spanish words that got mixed up in English. It means “turn” but turn is a dull word. But vuelta? That’s more like spinning and dancing! 

“I believe she is going to make a vuelta!”

“Let’s make a vuelta around town.” might imply a search for courtly love.

“I’m going to make a vuelta behind the mountain.” implies a search for adventure.

Anyway you turn it, that word is just waiting to be loaded with twinkling lights, smoky sunsets or wild cow chases in steamy mesquite thickets.

What a babydoll!

Baby doll is a term that just drips comforting Southern hospitality. If you get called that phrase, you just got wrapped up in a hug and a laugh. You mean as much to the name-caller as a little girl’s doll means to her. That’s a special kind of love!

Cowboy. Now that is a simple term with a complex array of meanings depending on context and inflection.

I often use it as a term of endearment to anyone young enough to be my son. It has something to do with the hordes of little boys in dirty hats and boots I live around who are constantly dragging a soft kids lariat rope around on and off a horse and attempting to trap the legs of dogs, chickens and adults wherever they go.

“Hey, Cowboy! Whatcha doing?” can go along with handing out cookies or hot dogs.


Of course, that exact phrase can be used as a come-hither in a more adult setting. 

Calling a man a cowboy is really pretty meaningless verbiage without context and inflection. 

“He is a heck of a cowboy” denotes rare skills.

“ Those cowboys are hands” indicates great admiration for skill and in fact may forgo gender in recognition of plurality of talent. The word “hand” in that context has nothing to with fingers and everything to do with describing a skilled horseman. It is a regional word used sparingly and only to describe great talent.

Cowboy may indicate someone whose western dreams fell short of reality resulting in a wistful sadness or a ridiculous pantomime. Cowboy can refer to someone who is more reckless than heedful. Cowboy can simply refer loosely to freedom of spirit. Cowboy is sometimes synonymous with poet. Sometimes it is just synonymous with America.


It seems these days there is always some hoopla going on because someone was offended by a word. It didn’t include someone or it included someone who didn’t like it. But see, here is the thing with words-their job is to describe. Some language is precise with no room for interpretation and is used for exact communication. Some language is vague and intangible. So are sunsets and dancing. So are a mother’s love and a child’s love. So is the poetry of graceful movement and the intrinsic nobility of a horse. If we cut away those words that have enough space in their meaning to encompass things that are ethereal and romantic, might we not lose the ability to share things that are ethereal and romantic? 

It is up to the wordsmith to weave words together to create meanings. It is up to the heart of the listener to find understanding.

One thought on “To Cowboy or Not to Cowboy?

Leave a Reply