Hunting & Shooting Idioms

The West has captured the imagination of Americans as well as the rest of the world. From the Spanish vaquero emerged the American cowboy, men and boys who herded and maintained large herds of cattle on the free range with the help of ropes and horses and the inevitable cook wagon. Guns and pistols were used for protection, to hunt for food and for recreation. Cowboys came from all strata of life, including former slaves and aristocrats. They were men who went west in the second half of the nineteenth century for adventure and work.

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As the old West changed with the diaappearance of free range, the advent of fences and advanced modes of transportation, the cowboy adapted but the image of the old West remained imbedded in the consciousness of the world as a glamourous occupation, rather than the dirty hard job it was. The cowboy may do his job now with trucks and airplanes, but we still see him riding herd on the free range with a gun in hand and “shooting from the hip” in a battle at the “OK Corral.”  He may not have to “grab a bull by its horns” except as recreation and a chance to earn a little extra money in a rodeo, but the images remain with Americans as idioms used in everyday life.

The colonist to the new world and the pioneers on the western frontier of the Americas needed guns to hunt game for food and for protection. Almost every man and boy and some women learned to shoot and to hunt for game. Recreation for the physically active young men on the frontier were extensions of work, just as the rodeo was for the cowboy and vaquero. There were shooting matches, as well as the inevitable foot races and gambling.

Guns may not be a necessity for protection and for food now, but shooting and hunting continue to be popular sports. It is not necessarily a gentleman’s sport in the United States and Canada, as it is in Europe. The sport grew out of ordinary person’s work. Because the activity of hunting and shooting was so necessay and is so popular today, there are many idioms derived from these activities. Today to “set one’s sights on something” usually means to set a goal or objective rather than to sight an object with one’s gun.

Shrink

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
not visible
Sentence 1
The birds are out of sight now and I missed a shot.
Meaning 2
too high
Sentence 2
This bill is out of sight. I won't pay it.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to shoot quickly
Sentence 1
He was quick on the trigger and lived through the fight.
Meaning 2
to respond quickly
Sentence 2
He was quick on the trigger on that game show. He answered all the questions.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to ride a horse with rough shoes on its hooves over something
Sentence 1
The cowboys rode roughshod over the trail in order to get the cattle to market on time.
Meaning 2
to treat someone poorly
Sentence 2
Please don't ride roughshod on the new employee. Be nice.

Derivation

When cowboys took cattle a long distance to market the shoes on their horses became rough and would tear up the trail.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to be riding fast and/or dangerously
Sentence 1
He's riding for a fall in the steeplechase.
Meaning 2
to risk an accident or failure
Sentence 2
He's riding for a fall putting all his money in high risk stocks.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to line up the sight of a rifle or bow
Sentence 1
I have set my sights on that deer over there.
Meaning 2
to want or desire something
Sentence 2
I have set my sights on that job at the bank.

Derivation

A sight is a device for aiming a gun or bow.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to shoot a duck or bird down
Sentence 1
He shot down the Canada goose. It won't fly anymore.
Meaning 2
to stop something because it won't work
Sentence 2
John shot down Fred's proposal. It just won't fly
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to shoot another person's mouth off
Sentence 1
The term is not used in the literal sense.
Meaning 2
to talk too much
Sentence 2
He wouldn't keep quiet. He shot his mouth off about his quarrel with Emily.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
a shot made by jumping in the air over the basket and throwing the basketball into the basket
Sentence 1
Michael Jordan slam dunked the ball to win the game for Chicago
Meaning 2
a decisive action which was easy to accomplish
Sentence 2
We got the merger. I slam dunked the deal.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to pull the gun slowly from the gun's holster
Sentence 1
He was slow on the draw in the gunfight and was shot by the sheriff.
Meaning 2
to be slow to understand
Sentence 2
Bill didn't understand the joke. He's slow on the draw.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to hold a gun up at the shoulder and shoot it
Sentence 1
Hold the gun and shoot it straight from the shoulder.
Meaning 2
to be frank
Sentence 2
I want to hear the news, good or bad. Let's hear it, straight from the shoulder.

Derivation

The usual way of shooting a gun is to hold it level and pressed to the shoulder.