Arts & Culture

Every region around the world is known for its own colloquialisms and slang. Montana is no different. Perhaps more so. There are many examples of slang that have woven themselves into Montana culture over the years. Some are disappearing as people spend more and more time buried inside cell phones, but among those who still like communicating the old-fashioned way, that lexicon remains. Here is a list of words and terms positively unique to Montana, which I have collected over the years.

 

A Buck Ninety-Eight  Montana slang for “expensive.”

A Couple Three  A few, as in, “A couple three years ago it snowed on the Fourth of July.”

Apple Picker  Someone from the state of Washington.

Back East  Anything east of the American plains states.

Big Stick  A nickname for the city of Big Timber, Montana.

Borrow Pit (or Barrow Pit)  A ditch along the side of a road.

Brookie  A brook trout.

Can Openers  Spurs.

Chicken Foot  A road that forks off into three different directions.

Chinks  Similar to chaps, but shorter. Chinks typically end below the knee but above the ankle. Chinks are more common among the cowboy crowd than chaps.

Cowboy Up  A phrase used to encourage someone (usually a male) to “suck it up” or “deal with it” instead of standing around and whining.

Crick  The generic Montana pronunciation of the word “creek,” which is a small brook or stream. Often when a creek has a proper name it is then pronounced “creek,” as in Willow Creek or Wolf Creek. Generically it is more commonly pronounced “crick,” though.

Critter  A small living creature; an animal.

Cow Cop  BLM employee.

Curtain Crawlers  Children. Also known as Ankle Biters, Fuzz Pickers, Rug Rats, or Free Ranch Hands.

Ditch  The addition of water to any alcoholic drink. For example, whiskey and water is ordered “whiskey ditch.” In other words, people in Montana do not drive into a ditch; they drive into a borrow pit. But they do order their whiskey ditch, which may result in driving into the borrow pit after having done so.

Fence Wrecker A destructive horse.

Fish Cop  Game warden.

Gopher  A small, burrowing animal native to the short grass prairies of Montana. They are disliked by most ranchers and farmers who try in vain to rid them. Technically they are not gophers at all, but Richardson’s ground squirrels.

Gopher Crotch, Montana  Somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It is near Bumble Fuck Egypt.

Got Tossed  Bucked off a horse. Also called “chewing gravel.”

Gulch A draw or deep ditch formed by erosion. It may contain a small stream or dry creek bed. It is usually larger in size than a gully and wetter than a coulee.

Gumbo Montana slang for greasy, impassible mud; particularly that which is found in eastern Montana. It is a slick and slippery ooze when wet, but when dry it has all the qualities and hardness of concrete.

Hammer Head  A bad horse.

High Centered  Drunk, or when a vehicle gets stuck on the chassis.

Hooky Bobbing  The act of a person hanging onto the bumper of a motor vehicle and sliding behind it on ice, snow, or slippery surface.

Jockey Box  Glove compartment.

Let Her Buck  A phrase that originated on the ranches and rodeo grounds of Montana. It can mean “to conquer” or to “let it go.” During the first World War soldiers from Montana in would yell “let her buck” as they charged into battle.

Many Sticks  A common nickname for the city of Plentywood, Montana. Ironically, the area near Plentywood has very few trees.

Montana Shoeshine  What you get when you step in a pile of cow poop.

Montanabahn  Interstate 90 in Montana. During daylight hours from 1995 to 1999 there was no posted speed limit. Drivers were urged to use “reasonable and prudent” judgment while driving, but you could drive as fast as you wanted.

Montanada  The miles and miles of border between northern Montana and southern Canada.

Muley  A mule deer.

Oil  A paved road.

Outfit  A pick-up truck. Women unfamiliar with the term have found themselves offended when taking their truck in for service when the mechanic says, “Lady, you have a problem with your outfit.”

Prairie Maggots  Sheep. Also known as “meadow maggots.”

Powder Day  Taking off work after an amazing mountain snowfall perfect for skiing.

Prairie Goat  A pronghorn antelope, which is neither a goat nor an antelope. Also see Speed Goat.

Rocky Mountain Oysters  When bull testicles are eaten as food. They can be deep-fried, coated in flour, peppered, and salted. Sometimes they are pounded flat. They can also be plainly cooked on the end of a branding iron after calves have been freshly branded and castrated. Also known as Cowboy Caviar, Montana Tender Groins, Dusted Nuts, or Bull Fries.

Saddle Up  The act of climbing into an automobile or onto a bar stool or horse.

Skeeters  Mosquitoes, also known as B-52s.

Slow Elk  A cow.

Sluffing  When a mass of earth and/or rock slide down the side of a hill. Extreme examples of sluffing have been known to shut down and/or alter the course of roads in Montana.

Smarter Than a Cow  A good horse.

Spinning Brodies A maneuver performed while driving a vehicle that involves rotating the rear or front of the vehicle around the opposite set of wheels in a continuous motion creating a circular skid-mark pattern of rubber on a roadway. Elsewhere known as “spinning doughnuts.”

Spud Muncher  Someone from Idaho.

Speed Goat A pronghorn antelope, which is neither a goat nor an antelope. Also see Prairie Goat.

Spendy  The Montanan word for “expensive” or “pricey.”

Spread  A ranch—which is never, ever referred to as a farm.

Tree Cop  U.S. Forest Service law enforcement.

Two Bits  Twenty-five cents, or due to inflation, $25 dollars.

You Betcha  A phrase commonly heard in Montana, which can mean either (1) “yes,” (2) “I agree, “ (3) “you’re wrong, but I won’t embarrass you by telling you’re wrong, and/or,” (4) “I didn’t hear what you said but I will respond to you as if I did.”

Zootown  A nickname for the city of Missoula, Montana.