Slang City Mail

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May 11, 2006

Slang of the Week: crowbait (noun)
a horse in very bad condition

After ten days lost in the desert, Luke’s horse was crowbait and the outlook was bad.

Celebrity quote:
“As we trotted across the Plain of Jezreel, we met half a dozen Digger Indians with very long spears in their hands, cavorting around on old crowbait horses, and spearing imaginary enemies; whooping, and fluttering their rags in the wind, and carrying on in every respect like a pack of hopeless lunatics.”
-Mark Twain in The Innocents Abroad

I love Public Television reality shows and like to imagine that the historical context makes them more intellectual than, say, Survivor. 1999’s The 1900 House was fairly tame—the family who agreed to live in the conditions of a hundred years ago faced headaches like cooking without electricity and having to face the world with dirty hair for lack of shampoo.

However, later shows caused more suffering for the participants and therefore more entertainment for viewers. In the Frontier House series, modern families lived for several months as 1883 Montana homesteaders, battling bears, snow and starvation. Later, on Colonial House, participants not only had issues with basic necessities, but were also publicly humiliated for using bad language.

This month, a contemporary group including a software engineer, graduate student and gym teacher adopted the lifestyle of 1867 cowboys on Texas Ranch House. In addition to the descriptive term crowbait (so-called because the horse was soon to die and be eaten by crows) colorful animal related slang of those times includes roostered (drunk) and bear sign (doughnuts).