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A Buckskinner's/English Glossary

Phil Jose

Okay, it's time to do something about that accent of yours.

It's sad but true—It doesn't matter if you're reading this in Montana or Mississippi, Austin or Boston—yer talkin' funny! You can also rest assured that you will continue to do so until you're reasonably fluent with the English dialect peculiar to historic reenactors known as "Skinspeak."

Skinspeak is a crucial part of your education. It saves you from making some pretty embarrassing blunders, say, calling your smokepole a "gun," or referring to those folks who come to events in tee shirts and shorts as "the public."

So study the following list carefully. Some of the words you meet will look deceptively like Standard English. But beware! The definitions have altered considerably:

Black powder shooting- The most fun you can have filling the air with a rotten egg smell. (Unless of course your sense of humor is incredibly juvenile. In that case, black powder shooting may have to settle for the Number Two slot.)

Breechcloth-An article of clothing without which any man doing an Indian persona is not properly attired.

Buckskinner- Specifically, a Western Fur Trade Era mountain man. Often, it's (mistakenly) used as a blanket term for all reenactors covered in these articles. CAUTION—Be wary of calling an F&I or RevWar reenactor a "buckskinner," especially if they're armed.

Camp stories- America's secret weapon in organic fertilizer technology. Whenever you hear a fellow reenactor say around a campfire, "Now what I'm going to tell you is the honest-to-pete truth," be prepared to use your shovel as the survival gear it has now become.

Cap popper- A percussion smokepole. It has such high-tech innovations as rear sights and rifled barrels. (It's bound to be the ruination of honest shoots everywhere…)

Computer- 1. The guiltiest of little secrets among reenactors, next to computer literacy.
2. Fun things to hang from trees and shoot at.

Daytripping- Toolin' down the interstate in funny clothing, spending some time where likeminded folks are camped, and making 'em wonder when you pay for gas on the way home.

Dining fly-1. The canvas that extends from the front of a tent to provide shade.
2. The unwelcome insect under it that just landed in your stew.

Drinking mug- The single most important piece of camping equipment you're ever going to need. A single drinking mug has been known to sustain participants for entire weekends.

Expert- 1. See "bore."
2. See "boor."

Flatlander- The only thing lower on a reenactor's food chain than a pilgrim. These are the folks who come to an event in polyester shorts, ask silly questions, pay full price for everything, and leave. Occasionally known as "tourists."

Flintskinner- A flintlock smokepole.

Full regalia (men)- Check your leggings. Are your seams straight? Is your earring in? Got new beadwork to show off? Hair's back in a ponytail? Good! Now slip that possibles bag over your shoulder and go out and play with the manly men.

Full regalia (women)- Leathers on, mocs on, as well as powder horns and smokepole… Oh, baby!!

Gabbin'- 1. Rudimentary reenacting social skill.
2. The ability to take three hours to say "Hello."
3. What really goes on at black powder shoots.

Junk- This is a word used only by you pilgrims. To a true reenactor, there is no such thing. You just need to figure out how to use the durn thing.

Leather- 1. Articles of clothing.
2. A form of currency.
3.A use for the stuff a critter's innards was wrapped in, after he no longer needs it.

Mountain man- For a brief, shining moment early in the nineteenth century, giants bestrode the western part of this continent. These were the mountain men.

Packing in, packing out- Two of our most time-honored traditions. Your are forever doomed to remain a pilgrim until you've participated in at least one of these rites of passage.

Paddle dance- This is hope for the hopeless. Also it's a dance for the irrhythmic and possibly unpopular, since you don't even have to show up with a partner. Seriously, these are great fun, and if you ever hear the words called at camp, come a-runnin'. (And don't worry; the paddle is not applied to any extremities.)

Participants- The folks at an event that are parked in the low spots and camped in the sun.

Period proper- What a flatlander ain't.

Persona- Your socially acceptable schizophrenic personality.

Pilgrim- That's you. No, we don't think you're already good enough to go to Plimouth Colony. It means " newbie." For the full impact of what we mean by "pilgrim," watch the first forty-five minutes of Jeremiah Johnson.

Reading- One of the main vehicles through which you're going to pull off portraying your rough, tough, illiterate persona. (You have been doing this, RIGHT?)

Illiteracy- A (usually) feigned aspect of a persona.
Caution: I've found that even feigning this can wreak havoc on your ability to alphabetize.

Rendezvous- As fine and excuse to wear funny clothes and sleep in the park as I could come up with if I thought about it all day.

Reschedule (as in "reschedule an event)- This concept is so alien that I'm not even sure why there's a word for it, much less why I'm writing about it.

RevWar and Western Fur Trade- Speculation on how we'll dress, act, and talk in the future. (Hey, I wear my F&I Era cultural bias rather proudly!)

Smokepole- See "shooting iron."

Time machines- These are amazing. They're blue plastic booths I see at every event and am convinced that they're used for time travel. I have personally witnessed time travelers from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries stepping out of a row of three of these things! (They're also known as blue trees, hooters, tourist cabins, and port-a-pots.)

Traders' Row- The line of tents with the shiny objects inside. Take some money with you and the nice people there will tell you what to do next.

Windage- 1. The horizontal deflection of a projectile
2. Often, the main ingredient of excuses given to a missed shot.

Work- The sweat we pour out to have this much fun.

Okay, that's a little better. I think you're losing just a bit of that accent. Now be advised of one small thing—while you're working on your Skinspeak, we're still not going to mistake you for Daniel Boone. But then again, we just might no longer mistake you for a well-dressed flatlander.

And that's progress.

Copyright 1999, Philip Jose.


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