From Library Journal
Clark (English and linguistics, Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas; Dictionary of Gambling, Lekek House, 1987) has compiled a work covering Westernisms?words or expressions regularly associated with the West (defined here as the Mountain and Pacific time zones of the United States and Canada). Terms are drawn from Western life and folklore emanating from the land, occupations, or pastimes of Western America's inhabitants. Most terms are beyond the scope of general dictionaries (e.g., "billiken" and "bungo"), and occasional photographs clarify or illustrate some words. Alphabetically arranged main entries include pronunciation aids, parts of speech, definitions, sources, etymologies, and dates of first occurrence. The definitions are short, and, as the subtitle notes, the book is for enthusiasts. For larger regional collections.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This work differs from the several dictionaries of western words recently reviewed in RBB
in that it covers more than just cowboy and western slang terms but also puts emphasis on places, such as states and cities, and on foods--abalone, cilantro, garbanzo, geoduck, mescal, etc. It includes the nicknames of most western states (Golden, Beehive, Stubtoe, and so on). It also briefly covers broader subjects, such as mission design architecture and the polite expression, "Mi casa es su casa." Entries vary from a few lines to a quarter page, and there are some black-and-white photographs and line drawings. Authorities are rarely cited in the text, but most western dictionaries are mentioned in the prefatory matter and are listed in the bibliography.
The work shows a want of editorial tightness. Listings, for example, of the date or period of "first occurence" seem, in many instances, to be too late. For example, the term zanja madre is dated to the period "from 1870's," but Los Angeles had a zanja madre (water-carrying ditch) as early as the 1780s. Clark says that the term joshua tree dates "from 1870's," but they were named in the early 1850s by Mormons who fancied they resembled the biblical Joshua, praying with extended arms. There are some surprising omissions. The words rancheria and gambusino were in common use by 1849. There are also some outright errors. Tule fog does not regularly occur in the Imperial Valley but in the Central Valley of California. The Santa Ana Mountains were not named for General Santa Anna but for the nearby Santa Ana River in about 1769, when the future general was not yet born. And Silicon Valley is southeast, not southwest, of San Francisco.
The work does cover many interesting and little-known facts about western lore, and it provides more etymologies than do some other dictionaries of western words.
The book has merit, but libraries already well supplied with dictionaries of western words, cowboy slang, and the like might wish to pass.