Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Florida Congresswoman is all cattle

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Congresswoman from Florida’s 20th District, was talking on one of the news shows last week about some of the goings-on in Washington. For an idea being proposed that she did not agree with, she pronounced that “that dog will not hunt.” A few seconds later, she made a reference to someone being “all hat and no cattle.”

For a nanosecond or two, I thought that she must have just run out and bought my new book, Wicked Good Words . It’s a collection of America’s regionalisms—those things we say that signal we’re from here and not there. Then I got a grip and realized that the Congresswoman was simply well attuned to the expressions that Floridians—some of them, at least—use.

That dog will not hunt,” or as it’s more commonly heard, “that dog won’t hunt,” is an expression familiar to many Southerners. (Yes, even in South Florida, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz’s district, you can still find some Southerners among the many Northerners like me who have come here.) Folks in the Ozarks were among the first to use this expression as a way of saying “that won’t work,” but saying it more colorfully.

You’ll also hear the inverse, “that dog’ll hunt,” although not as frequently. (And these days, almost never when it comes to goings-on in Washington.)

All hat and no cattle” is how many in the southern part of the country say that someone is full of hot air, or doesn’t follow through: an imposter. Just because you can put on a cowboy hat doesn’t mean you know to rustle cattle.

Okay, you may be thinking, makes sense for Texas. But Florida? Yep. Florida does, indeed, have some cattle ranches. Go figure.