Sunday, September 22, 2013


Back in the day, a man usually tried to avoid a fight. Remember that easy access to firearms we discussed in a previous column. However, humans being human, arguments occurred. Here are some of the terms you’d have heard in such a situation. This is part 2 of "Them's Fighting Words!" For more fighting words (A-L) look in the archives, July 31, 2013.

Milling: fighting, as in milling about aimlessly in a crowd, punching whoever is closest

On the prod, on the shoot: spoiling for a fight

Peck of trouble: a peck is a unit of measure, a quarter-bushel

Pucker: in a state of irritation or anger; the image is of a puckered brow or frown

Pull in your horns: quit looking for trouble; an irritated cow thrashes about with its horns

Raise his bristles: to incite his anger; an angry animal raises its hairs and puffs itself up to appear larger

Raise sand, raising Cain: to cause trouble; Cain is the Biblical brother of Abel, the first murderer

Rantankerous: a humorous variation of cantankerous; contentious or stubborn

Ringy: ornery or angry man or animal; origin unclear

Rip out: impatiently give vent to one's feelings or opinions, as in letting emotions rip from one’s body

Roily or rily: vexed; roil means to stir up sediment and make turbid

Row up: to rebuke, punish with words; a row is a disturbance

Savagerous: furious; another Latinate term used to sound more educated

Scoff off, scuff away: to drive away or impel, as in by scoff or scorn

Score off: to get the better of one, especially in a verbal debate; the image is of scoring points in a game

Scrap: to fight or box; possibly a variation of “scrape” meaning an abrasive encounter

Scratch, to come to the scratch: to begin a fight; could either be from the literal definition of scratch, or from the fact that roosters scratch the dirt before attacking, to sharpen their claws

Set about: to chastise, beat, thrash; origins unclear

Set-to: argument, debate, contest in words; originally boxing slang from the definition of “set” as in beginning a task or arrangement

Settle his hash: to properly punish him; hash is a dish of minced meat

Sharp stick, after him with a sharp stick: determined to have satisfaction or revenge


  1. These were fun and the images reinforced the mental thought that came to mind while reading their definitions. Thanks for the fun lesson. Doris

  2. I love these posts of yours, and the pictures just make them come alive--I can hear these men yelling some of this stuff to each other! LOL

  3. Thanks J.E.S. Another one to file away for future reference.

  4. It took me a while to get here, but I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy these posts for terms. I'm looking forward to the next post! ☺

  5. Thank you for the kind words - I'm really enjoying the research for these posts!