Fightin’ My Head

You know that joke about how romance writers spend their days lounging around in a feather boa eating bon bons? Well tonight I’m there. Or as close as I’ll ever get. I am artfully reclined on my bed nibbling on romrussins and mandeltryffels from a selection of exceptionally fine chocolates hand-delivered to me by three drool-worthy Swedish men.

No, ladies, I do not jest. I have photographic proof:

What? You expected me to take a picture of the men? But this is chocolate!

I suppose I have to tell you the whole story. For several years prior to our return home to help my parents on the ranch, they participated in an international exchange program that brought eighteen to twenty five year olds from other countries to work in Montana for six month internships. Some of the neighbors still do. As a result, community gatherings sometimes sound like the opening of a bad joke:

A Dane, a Norwegian and an Aussie sat down at the bar…

One of the first to arrive in our area was a Swede named Charlotta. And since this is a romance blog, I feel it necessary to mention that fifteen years later she’s still here, but now she’s one of the family because she married my cousin. Our own little version of Green Card. (I’m still trying to persuade her to read Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in English so she can tell me how the translation compares to the original Swedish version).

My parents had Sadie from England, Amanda from Australia, Johanna from Norway, and Anders, Isabel and Joanna from Sweden. The interns and their friends often come back for visits, which explains why I have hot Swedish guys delivering chocolate to my door. Their sister Jessica is a former intern who’s going to be staying for a couple of weeks to help out at the ranch while the rest of the family heads on home.

You would think this would also account for the language barrier I’ve been encountering lately, but no. These people speak better English than I do. (Which ain’t sayin’ much. Plus they all speak at least two other languages besides their own.) My communication challenges have been with my critique partners, our very own Crystal and Shawna here at ENALR. When they recently read my latest manuscript, they both stumbled over the same phrases—ones I hadn’t even realized weren’t used by the general public—so I figured it must be time for another installment of Cowboy Lingo 101.

Fight Yer Head: to second guess or doubt yourself. Derived from the same term applied to horses that shake their head or root their noses when pressure is applied to the halter or bridle. Common usage: “Damn women, they sure know how to make a guy fight his head.”

Start one side of: This one’s a little more complicated. It comes from the bronc riding events in rodeo, where the cowboy is required to have his heels touching the horse’s neck above the break of the shoulder as the horse leaves the chute. This is called ‘starting him out’. A rider can be disqualified if his foot is out of position on either the left or right side of the horse. As a result, when a rider gets blown out of the saddle only a jump or two out of the chute, you might hear someone say, “Geez, he didn’t even start one side of that horse.” And later, at the bar, you might hear, “I wouldn’t pick a fight with him, Joe. You might beat the snot out of Bubba, but you couldn’t start one side of his girlfriend.”

On your lip: Okay, this isn’t really a rodeo thing. It’s just my family. When we were kids and we would pout, my dad would say, “If you stick that lip out any further, you’re going to step on it.” Which has, over the years, became one of those things I say that makes my co-workers stare at me like I’ve got a mini-bar in my bottom desk drawer. As in, “Oh, for crying out loud! Is she still on her lip about having to work late last Friday?”

As for the mini-bar…um, who? Me? I’m too busy munching Mjolk choklad.

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7 Responses

  1. Down here it’s, “if you stick your lip out any further you’re gonna trip over it”. So it’s not just your family. I run into this a lot. my editor has started saying, “is this a southern thing?” instead of “what does this mean?” 🙂 I try to clarify in context from there.

  2. Enjoyed this post way too much! LOL We never sponsered an exchange student, but I was a part of the AFS club all four years in high school. Loved meeting new people from all over world and we had lots of laughs because of those language barriers. Down here in Texas, there’s words like yonder, fixin, and awhalago, which to this day my husband still asks what kind of Australian animal has a name like that. He’s from Mississippi. LOL

  3. Yep. “Stick your lip out” is something my family said.

    I’d have gotten “fight yer head”, but the “start one side of” still has me shaking my head a little.

    And if you EVER discuss hunky Swedish guys and DON’T provide pictures, you are going to be grounded for the next month! 🙂

    • Yeah! What Cyndi said! LOL 🙂

      • I know. My bad. I didn’t even think of pictures until after they left. I’m also annoyed that I got home too late to work to see the one guy playing on the trampoline with my kid. He’s a moguls skier and was doing all those flips and twists and stuff and my husband said it was pretty damn impressive.

  4. I love “fight yer head,” but I think I love “on her lip” even more. Yes, it stems from a common phrase, but you’ve totally made its usage unique! Like authors are always trying to do with cliches. 🙂

    I want some Swedish chocolate. *pout*

  5. Those are great, Kari, but I wouldn’t have understood any of them except “fight yer head” without an explanation.

    The family-specific term I always thought was funny was “the McIlheny bite”. In my family it means that last bite that you shouldn’t take because you’re too full, but you do it anyway. Apparently named after some great-uncle who was famous for it.

    And my husband brings home phrases from work like “that’s not in our wheelhouse”, meaning not their area of expertise/responsibility.

    Thanks for sharing. Enjoy the chocolate and the hot exchange students! =)

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