cowboy up!

Recently run across by accident, a reference to a Kindle “book” (apparently a self-published manuscript) entitled “How to cowboy up and stop being such a pussy” by “Max Powerz”. The author’s description:

A much needed guide for many men who have evolved into being unable to change a tire, cook a steak, kill a rodent, or God forbid, say a naughty word..

And the cover:


Note the pink panties, a symbol of what happens to the man who doesn’t cowboy up. The dreaded specter of feminization.

The idiom cowboy up here seems to be man up on steroids. (On man up, see this posting of 8/11/13.)

In the same vein, this t-shirt:


And a Jerry England site on cowboy movie-making in southern California glosses the idiom as:

tuff-up, get back on yer horse, don’t back down, don’t give up, do the best you can with the hand you’re dealt, give it all you’ve got

— all manifestations of cowboy culture, both in fiction and in real life. (On cowboy culture, England recommends David Dary’s Cowboy Culture: A Saga of Five Centuries (1989).)

Any number of movies about the cowboy life, ranging from the mythical to the more realistic.  Even one with the title Cowboy Up. From Wikipedia:

Cowboy Up is a 2001 film directed by Xavier Koller. It stars Kiefer Sutherland and Marcus Thomas.


The central characters are rising rodeo star Ely Braxton (Thomas) and his older brother Hank (Sutherland) a champion bullfighter and stock contractor, with a family ranch in Santa Maria CA.

The uses of cowboy up then tail off into references to playing at being a cowboy, on dude ranches and the like. And to businesses, of many types, that advertise cowboy associations. Three examples:

(1) the Cowboy Up Saloon in Fort Myers FL (link)

(2) The Cowboy Up restaurant in Dover DE (link), whose food doesn’t look particularly cowboyish, though the website approvingly cites the definition: “verb. To adopt a tough approach or course of action; to get back on one’s horse with courage and determination.”

(3) (my favorite) the Cowboy Up Men’s Salon in Frisco and Dallas TX (link), which invites real men to its services:

Y’all come on into Cowboy Up Men’s Salon. Kick up your boots, grab a cold one, and escape into the simple country life. Enjoy our boot stomping country music while our professional team of stylists fix your hair and relax your mind. Cowboy Up is about the experience, yet you’re gonna leave looking Cowboy cool.

One Response to “cowboy up!”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    Earlier discussion by Ben Zimmer in his NYT On Language column from 9/5/10, which has “man up,” “cowboy up,” “nut up,” “sack up,” etc.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: