Gun, hunting and shooting language that has made it way into poplular Americaculture


January 4, 2012, 04:50 PM
It is amazing the impact guns, hunting and shooting has had on our culture. They have in many cases always been a part of our heritage. Often these terms are used daily in converstions that have little to do with guns or hunting etc, but whos origins are from that heritage. Some of these have funny meanings in pop culture, far different from their historical origins, and a lot of there terms are hundreds of years old. Kinda cool! Here are some i thought of. What can you add to the list?:
Lock, stock and barrel: The three basic components that make a complete rifle. The whole. In its entirety. Complete.

A flash in the pan: On a flintlock, when the priming powder in the pan ignites with a flash, but doesn't ignite the powder charge in the barrel, resulting in a misfire. Uneventful. A disappointment. Short-lived.

Fizzled out: When a cannon fuse goes out before it reaches the powder charge, thus not firing the cannon. Similar to a flash in the pan. A let down, especially when expecting a big bang.

A loose cannon: An unsecured cannon on the deck of a ship could cause damage, injury or death when being tossed about in rough seas. Even land cannons needed to be secured when firing because of the recoil causes them to lurch backwards causing damage or injury. Unpredictable, out of control and likely to cause damage.

A powder keg: Volatile and potentially explosive.

Short fuse: A short fuse would burn quickly, firing the cannon abruptly. Quick to ignite. Quick tempered.

Half-cocked: A gun with an exposed hammer in the half-cock position on safe. In the heat of battle, if a gun was carried on half-cock, shouldered and trigger squeezed, it would not fire — a possibly fatal error. Ill prepared.

Shooting one's mouth off: Outspoken.

He (or she) must chew gunpowder: Always shooting his (or her) mouth off.

He's like a loose cannon, always running around half-cocked shooting his mouth off. A combination of the above.

Not worth the powder to blow it to hell: Junk. Worthless.

Give 'em both barrels: When pulling both triggers on a double-barreled shotgun to fire both barrels simultaneously. To holding nothing back.

Loaded for bear: Keeping a heavy powder charge in your rifle when expecting large and dangerous game. Heavily charged with fury and looking for a fight.

Gunning for someone: Enraged in aggressive pursuit with intent to harm.

Showdown: In the Old West when two men faced off to settle a dispute by gunfight. A challenge or contest between rivals. A meeting to settle a dispute.
Shoot yourself in the foot: Self-induced consequences or setback.

Just shoot me: A cynical way of asking to end one's misery and suffering.

Shoot from the hip: To quick-draw a handgun from its holster and fire instantaneously, without taking the time to raise the gun and aim. To speak abruptly and tell it like it is.

A straight shooter: Someone who speaks truthfully.

Shooting the bull or the breeze: Engaged in conversation. (The High Road version).

Take a shot at it: Give it a try.

Shooting for it: To plan for or attempt to attain a goal.

Shooting for the stars: Aspiring to a lofty goal, although seemingly out of reach.
???feel free to add to this.

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January 4, 2012, 04:52 PM
That should read American Culture...sorry

January 4, 2012, 05:06 PM
Any one out there know the meaning of "Freezing the ba!!s off a brass monkey", its a clean meaning, get your minds out of the gutter.

January 4, 2012, 05:14 PM
canon balls were stored on decks of ships in brass rings called "monkeys" so they wouldnt shift at sea. when it gets cold things contract. if its cold enough to contract the brass to the point the canon balls roll off its "cold enough to freeze th balls off a brass monkey"......and thats cold (see they do teach you useful stuff at the Naval Academy!)

January 4, 2012, 05:17 PM
To freeze to balls off a brass monkey refers to how cannon balls were stored on a ship in a brass rail (called brass monkey) when it got cold the brass contracted faster than the iron cannon balls. So the cannon balls would fall out of the brass rail.

January 4, 2012, 05:19 PM
More communally known than I realized.

January 4, 2012, 05:20 PM
a couple more:
Happy Hunting Grounds: Rich land where Native Americans believed their spirits went upon their death. The hereafter. Heaven.

Shotgun wedding: Refers to when a man gets a woman in the family way, and is escorted to the wedding by her father and brothers with a shotgun (s) pointed at his back. A marriage between a man and a woman with child.

The whole shootin' match: Complete. Nothing more.

dagger dog
January 4, 2012, 05:43 PM
He has a hair trigger--- easily enraged
May pop----- cheap or poorly maintained
Drop the hammer on ----- set off or can't be recalled

January 4, 2012, 05:52 PM
Under the gun: Working at something feverishly like someone was pointing a gun at you to get it done.

January 4, 2012, 05:52 PM
Shotgun Shack -- A rectangular house so narrow that could be cleared with one shotgun blast.

Riding Shotgun -- From the practice of an armed guard sitting next to the stagecoach driver.

January 4, 2012, 05:54 PM
shotgun shack...havent heard that in a long time!

January 4, 2012, 06:35 PM
Can't believe no one has said this one. You hear it all the time.

Pull the trigger: to set in motion.

357 Terms
January 4, 2012, 06:38 PM
Bite the bullet?

January 4, 2012, 06:38 PM
Smoking gun: Originated from getting caught holding a smoking gun over a dead body. Evidence of guilt......( on a side note..i own a boat named the Smoking Gun)

357 Terms
January 4, 2012, 06:42 PM
I have them " in the crosshairs "

January 4, 2012, 06:45 PM
"on target"?

357 Terms
January 4, 2012, 07:23 PM
Stick to my guns

January 4, 2012, 07:26 PM
Not worth the powder to blow it to hell: Junk. Worthless.

I wouldn't classify that one as gun related.

Shot himself in the foot.-sabotaged himself

Derry 1946
January 4, 2012, 08:06 PM
Keep your powder dry. Dry fire. Hang fire. Shooting blanks. Lock and load. Give them the whole nine yards (of belt ammo on a fighter plane).

The Lone Haranguer
January 4, 2012, 08:17 PM
A person noted for honesty and fairness in his or her dealings may be called a "straight shooter." An attempt to accomplish a task, solve a problem, answer a question, etc. may be called "giving it a shot" or "taking a shot at it."

January 4, 2012, 08:34 PM
A "flash in the pan" comes and goes quickly without any lasting effect, like when when a flintlock's priming powder doesn't set off the main charge.

Derry 1946
January 4, 2012, 09:13 PM
Lock, stock, and barrel.

Ed N.
January 4, 2012, 09:16 PM
"Dodged a bullet" - avoided a severe problem or calamity.

"Well armed" - well prepared.

"Outgunned" - overwhelmed by opposition.

"In the crosshairs" - being the subject of direct opposition.

"Trigger" (verb) - to initiate an action.

"Shotgun" - trying many options at once, as in "a shotgun approach."

"Take a shot" - make an attempt at something.

"Guns blazing" - energetic action, forceful argument.

Tim the student
January 4, 2012, 09:24 PM
Bite the bullet?

I believe it is from having surgery without anesthesia. Biting helped with pain management, and bullets were available. So, guys would say they were ready to bite the bullet and endure that pain when old sawbones started to take that leg off.

Derry 1946
January 4, 2012, 09:48 PM
"Take a blunderbuss approach" (scatter your efforts in many directions, rather than focusing them).

January 4, 2012, 09:58 PM
Learned a new one last week. A cannon service: a church service so poorly attended that one could fire off an artillery piece during the service without endangering anyone.


The Lone Haranguer
January 4, 2012, 10:02 PM
An unobstructed path to something may be called a "straight shot."

The Lone Haranguer
January 4, 2012, 11:57 PM
The only time I ever heard "shotgun shack" was in an old Talking Heads song. :D
("Once in a Lifetime")

January 5, 2012, 01:45 AM
"It's a good day for ducks." People today seem to think that ducks enjoy, cold, rainy, windy weather.

In truth, the expression refers to a good day to HUNT ducks. During bad weather ducks are forced to move around seeking shelter. They don't care for bad weather any more than we do.

January 5, 2012, 01:58 AM
Do people still say "loaded for bear"? I haven't heard it since I was a kid.

January 5, 2012, 02:02 AM
I can't believe this hasn't come up yet, "Take your best shot".

Or "Scattershot approach".

January 5, 2012, 07:59 AM
dont think this one was mentioned yet:
Fire one across their bow: The firing of a cannon across the bow of an enemy ship, giving warning that were ready to do battle. To give warning.

January 5, 2012, 08:24 AM
Sorry if this one was there and I missed it:

"Pull the trigger" = actually do something you've been contemplating/ planning for a while

I always understood a "shotgun house" to be one designed in such a way as to minimize street frontage and thereby minimize property taxes, an 18th or early 19thC term. Houses built to accomplish this were one room wide and 4-6 rooms deep, with doorways aligned in the same spot in every room. It was said you could open the front door, the back door, all the interior doors then fire a shotgun from the street to the back porch without hit anything in the house.

January 5, 2012, 08:28 AM
Sitting duck: A sitting duck is much easier to hit than a flying one. Easy prey. Vulnerable.

Dead duck: Doomed.

January 5, 2012, 09:22 AM
give them the whole nine yards

The lenghts of the cloth belt for the maxim

January 5, 2012, 10:06 AM
Armed to the teeth !
Bang for the buck

January 5, 2012, 10:45 AM
Bite the bullet refers to tearing open paper cartridges with pre-measured powder. You would bite the bullet, tear the paper dump the powder, ram home the bullet.

January 5, 2012, 11:10 AM
couple more:
High tail it: An expression used to describe the hasty retreat of whitetail deer when they raise their tails in alarm. To make a hasty retreat. A fast getaway.

Gun shy: A condition when gun dogs are afraid of the sound of gunfire. Overly cautious. Fearful.

January 5, 2012, 01:58 PM
had no idea the origin of this phrase had anything to do with hunting but it odes!
"In the pink": Originated from English fox hunters who wore scarlet riding jackets called "pinks." Dressed and ready.

January 5, 2012, 06:35 PM
Southern version:

Shotgun House
West African inspired house with all doors in line from front to back. Hence, you could fire a shotgun through it without hitting anything

January 5, 2012, 06:41 PM
Barking up the wrong tree: Raccoons will often tag a tree to leave their scent and continue on, leaving the hound dogs in pursuit thinking the raccoon went up that tree. Pursing a faulty lead. Looking in the wrong place.

January 5, 2012, 07:09 PM
"shotgun cloning/sequencing" - a method of DNA sequencing which uses a somewhat random approach to sequence short lengths of DNA which are then aligned to deduce the sequence of the entire DNA strand.

January 5, 2012, 07:19 PM
A feather in your cap: A term expanded to hunters who would pluck a single feather from a game bird and display it in their hat bands. A badge. Symbol of accomplishment.

January 5, 2012, 07:23 PM
Bite the bullet refers to tearing open paper cartridges with pre-measured powder. You would bite the bullet, tear the paper dump the powder, ram home the bullet.

Also a good thing to note is that "Biting the Bullet" got its common meaning from Indian soldiers in the British colonized areas. The paper cartridges were greased with animal fat and it is against common religious practices to consume animal parts. So the soldiers would either refuse to open the cartridges (necessary to the companies survival in a warzone) or do so unwillingly. I'm pretty sure this led to some sort of revolt (don't quote me on that though:p)

January 5, 2012, 07:41 PM
Beat around the bush: Beating the brush to flush or drive game to another. To avoid being direct.

Derry 1946
January 5, 2012, 08:08 PM
In French, the same term is "panache," now a synomym for style.

January 5, 2012, 08:13 PM
Can't hit the broad side of barn: A poor marksman but refers to any activity where aim is concerned

January 5, 2012, 08:49 PM
Bite the bullet means something unpleasant is coming:

Often cited as a Hollywoodism of 'biting on a bullet while some sawbones cut another one out of you. I can see the older British and French versions having validity too.

Also "taking a slug" could be a bullet made of whiskey/rum/gin/brandy to stave off the pain of having a bullet removed.

I've heard 'Kentucky windage' described as wild guess by a college Prof., akin to a 'shot in the dark'. Of course a lot of old timers and backwoods types know it's a form of precision shooting.

January 5, 2012, 09:17 PM
you guys have come up with some good one...pretty cool how hunting and guns have influenced the core of our language and culture.
Pot shot: A shot taken by a hunter to put game in the pot without regard for rules of fair chase. To slur or slight someone unfairly.

The Lone Haranguer
January 6, 2012, 01:50 PM
Multiple items or tasks in their entirety: "the whole shootin' match."

January 6, 2012, 06:24 PM
Flash in the pan
Lock, Stock & Barrel

Ducks in a row ??

I would "Take a bullet" for him.

I know a guy that got nicknamed "short round"

January 6, 2012, 06:36 PM
'Ain't seen hide nor hair: An absence of sign. Not a trace

January 6, 2012, 06:57 PM
"draw a bead", to take aim at something (literally or otherwise)

January 6, 2012, 07:07 PM
Plata o plomo, literally the silver or the lead.

Mark, esquire

January 6, 2012, 07:43 PM
Well, nobody else said it so i guess i'll pull the trigger.

"Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"

"Chekhov's gun" is another.

And of course, "make my day".

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