Have you ever snickered at a colorful name of a cowboy in a movie, TV show, or book? Did you think the writer or director thought it would bring a chuckle to the audience and that's why they used it?
Well, it was the norm back in the days of the Old West. Cowboys were not only talented at "cussin'" they were talented at giving one another colorful names that went with or was the exact opposite of their personalities, stature, or a particular talent. This name giving was so common that many times when someone was buried his friends didn't know who was getting buried when his real name was spoken.
If you received a nickname you were well liked. A man's nickname could extent to his wife, though no disrespect was intended. Many would forget the real names of their boys when they'd used a nickname for so long.
A red-headed man would be called: "Red", "Brick", "Sunset." If there were more than one red-head in the community they might add the which he worked. "TJ Red".
A man with freckles was called, "Speck", "Pinto", or "Paint."
Every ranch had a "Slim" or "Shorty". "Needle" Nelson got his name because someone exclaimed, "if he closed one eye he'd look like a needle." Anther name for a slim person was "Skeeter" . And "Squatty" for a short,fat person. If someone was on the small size they would be called "half-pint" or "Peewee."
Bowlegs left a person open for the names, "Wishbone", "Weddin' Ring"or "Rainbow."
If your voice was whinny or quiet you might get the moniker "Whimpy" If you had a loud voice chances were you'd be dubbed "Foghorn." Then there were the ones that went with a personality: "Gloomy", "Frosty", "Sudden." One man was dubbed"Bed-Out" because he always slept outdoors. Another was "Two-Bits" because he always said, "I'll bet two-bits... ."
Sometimes it was circumstances that garnered a cowpoke a name. A man started with an outfit and was put to work digging post holes, so he became "Post-Hole" Wilson.
Cowboys who talked too much would get the names of: "Windy" or "Lippy".
Here is a list of names, see if you can figure out how why they were given to the cowboys.
source: Cowboy Lingo by Ramon F. Adams