No horsing around

Thursday, October 9, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:24 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Kevin Millar was tired of excuses.

Millar, the Boston Red Sox’s first baseman, said so in a way that has caught on across the country.

“I want to see somebody cowboy up and stand behind his team and quit worrying about all the negative stuff,” Millar said.

In rodeo, where the phrase originates, “cowboy up” means to pull oneself out of the dirt after being stomped and get back on the bull.

In other words, Millar paid teammate Derek Lowe, a pitcher, a compliment after the Red Sox defeated Oakland 7-3 on Aug. 13.

“We needed somebody to cowboy up tonight and Lowe did,” Millar said.

Millar’s use of the phrase has caught on as the Red Sox earned a postseason berth, advancing to the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees.

“In this case you have a popular sports figure using an old term,” said Matt Gordon, a socio-linguist in the Missouri English department. “These things have a certain novelty when used by celebrities. (Cowboy up) is the quintessential American idea. It expresses a cultural part of our value system.”

The term has become the rallying cry of the Red Sox and made inroads into popular culture all over the country. A billboard towering over Kenmore Square near Fenway Park shows Millar and other team members standing tall above the team mantra “cowboy up.” Fans have begun to wear cowboy hats to games.

The fans in Boston have learned about cowboy up, but what does the phrase mean to Columbians?

“Well, a cowboy is supposed to be a renegade. So I think when it says, ‘cowboy up,’ it’s just a renegade getting ready to do his thing.” — Benjamin Watson, patron of the Bull Pen Cafe

“I completely despise the cowboy scene. I guess it means to turn into a redneck or something.”Brian Schnarr, piercer at Rebel Tattoos

“It means Western’s in, honey. It means Western’s back: the clothes, the music, the image.” — Joy Castillo, co-owner of Natural Groove

“It’s something they say when they herd the cows.” — William Creason, resident of Tiger Columns

“Well, in Spanish it means, ‘No sea lloron,’ don’t be a cry baby. Or we would say ‘No sea menso,’ which means don’t be dumb.”— Luis Vasques, construction worker

“It means to get all your stuff together to leave for somewhere. Figure out what you’re gonna leave behind and tie the rest to your horse, or your bicycle, or whatever you’ve got.” — Willy Maxwell, 28-year Columbia resident

“It’s like getting hit with a groundball in the shin.” — Mary Love, manager of Best of the West

“Pain is a really good thing if you can turn around and use it to change your emotions.” — Gerry Lightfoot, Lieutenant Commander of Navy Seal unit in Vietnam

“Maybe you say it to someone like a joke. Or you say it to tell someone to go somewhere really fast.” — Harwina Hamdan, MU exchange student from Malaysia

“It means getting pumped up for going out as a cowboy. Put on your hat and boots and go out and dance.”— Nicole Deverich, MU student from Texas

“You say it when somebody is wimpin’ out on something.”— Tony Fudge, patron of the Bull Pen Café

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