buffaloed

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buffaloed

Post by Archived Topic » Mon Mar 15, 2004 6:46 pm

I have often wondered the origin of the slang word "buffaloed", as in "fooled" or "cheated". I assume it has to do with the city in upstate New York, but what is the connection? A novel I read recently suggests it might be related to the bad press the city incurred when the President (Cleveland?) was shot there, but that doesn't sound quite right? Ideas? thanks, Marty,NYC
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buffaloed

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Mar 15, 2004 7:01 pm

The Cassell Dictionary of Slang contains the following entry for 'buffaloed':

1900s-1950s [orig. U.S.], coerced, crushed. [BUFFALO v.]

This is the entry for 'buffalo':

19th C. [U.S.] to overawe, to frighten, to confuse, to pressurize. [the size and strength of the animal]
Reply from Erik Kowal (Reading - England)
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buffaloed

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Mar 15, 2004 7:15 pm

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Ed. has this to say:
buffaloed
1. To intimidate, as by a display of confidence or authority
2. To deceive, hoodwink
3. to confuse, bewilder
No mention is made in any of my sources of the etymology of buffaloed, and neither Buffalo, NY nor any reference to Grover Cleveland is mentioned. Date:Circa 1896.
The term buffaloed is related to the buffalo (bison), not to the city in New York.
Reply from Charles Becker (Murray KY - U.S.A.)
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buffaloed

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Mar 15, 2004 7:29 pm

Buffalo are notoriously stupid beasts. Our Native American's would frequently use the skin of a buffalo to sneak near enough to the herd to be able to pick them off. A number of buffalo could be arrowed that way and the rest of the herd would go on tranquilly grazing. So they were fooled very handily. Too, another NA method of hunting was to deliberately stampede them off a cliff. During the great slaughter of the buffalo in the last half of the 1800's, hunters with firearms would stand off some distance from a herd and simply slaughter them for their hides. The buffalo just didn't link the sound of the shot with their buddies dropping around them. Another use of the term buffaloed was when a person in an argument drew a sidearm and struck the person over the bead, dropping the person instantly with no great noise or fuss. This was a technique used by law enforcement officers to avoid having to shoot a miscreant. Unfortunately, it has almost passed out of vogue!
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
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buffaloed

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Mar 15, 2004 7:44 pm

This example further strengthens the impression that natural selection and Presidential elections tend to produce results by contrary mechanisms. To paraphrase Newton's Third Law, 'For each selection there is an equal and opposite election'.
Reply from Erik Kowal (Reading - England)
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Re: buffaloed

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Jan 30, 2012 5:56 am

aaa
I ran across the following in a well-regarded novel which tells of a Colorado buffalo hunt in the 1870s:
<1960 “In quick succession, miller shot three more buffalo. By the time he had shot the third, the entire herd was on its feet, milling about; but the animals did not run. They wandered about in a loose circle, bawling, looking for a leader to take them away [[the leader had been shot]]. ‘I've got them,’ Miller whispered fiercely. ‘By God, they’re buffaloed!’ . . . . ‘Miller has them buffaloed,’ Andrews said, panting. ‘They just stand there and let him shoot them. They don’t even run.’”—Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams, pages 131-132>
See Leif’s above posting on the not-too-sharp buffalo. Further confirmation of this view is found in the following (also see 1922 quote below):

SPEAKING FREELY by Flexner & Soukhanov
<“To buffalo someone (1870s) meant to confuse, cheat, or intimidate another. It comes, not as we might assume, from the power of a buffalo herd to frighten or threaten someone, but from the perception of the buffalo as a dim-witted, easily terrorized creature.”>
Here’s what Cassell’s had to say:

CASSELL’S DICTIONARY OF SLANG

BUFFALO verb [late 19th century and still in use] (US): To overawe [[intimidate]], to frighten, to confuse, to pressurize [[pressurize – subject to excessive stress, strain, or vexation]]: [from the size and strength of the animal]
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According to the above sources Cassell’s evidently got this one backwards – the origin apparently has to do with the weaknesses of the buffalo rather than its size and strength, and ‘overawe’ (intimidate) refers to the fright of the buffalo and not the fear instilled in others due to its ‘size and strength.’
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Here's the complete version of Charles' above AHD posting:

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY (AHD examples included)

BUFFALO transitive verb:

1) To intimidate, as by a display of confidence or authority: “The board couldn’t buffalo the federal courts as it had the Comptroller” (American Banker)

2) To deceive, hoodwink: “Too often . . . job seekers have buffaloed lenders as to their competency and training.” (H. Jane Lehman [[Los Angeles Times real estate columnist]],

3) To confuse, bewilder [[also puzzled, baffled, mystified – no example offered by AHD, so here’s mine]] “He was buffaloed by the contradictory evidence.”]]
_________________

Here are some further takes on the subject:

DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN SLANG

BUFFALO verb

1) [about 1879] To confuse someone purposely, especially in order to cheat or dupe

2) [about 1890] To intimidate; cow; bulldoze
_________________

HISTORICAL DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN SLANG

BUFFALO verb Originally Western

1a) To intimidate or frighten, especially by means of mere bluff; to cow.
<1891 “The boy’s a good boy, ’n’ he shan’t be buffaloed while I’m ’round.”—David by Lummis, page 84>

<1926 “He’s tryin’ to buffalo me. It’s the first hoss I ever see that I’m plumb scared of.”—Trails by C. M. Russell, page 88>

<1955 “He got her so buffaloed that she didn’t know whether she was coming or going.”—Raise High the Roof Beam . . . by J. D. Salinger, page 38>

<1984 “Mr. Reagan said today that despite rising interest rates he won’t be . . . buffaloed into changing his economic policy.”—AP Radio Network News, 26 May>
1b) To confuse or perplex.
<1896 “Buffalo . . . To confuse, ‘rattle.’—Dialect Notes Vol. I, page 413>

<1902 “The Sioux had your wagon-train surrounded and your soldiers buffaloed.”–John Ermine of the Yellowstone by F. Remington, page 236>

<1907 “He’d been posing as a fighter . . . and had most of us buffaloed.”—Lippincott’s Magazine, October, page 501>

<1922 “From the insensate milling of frightened bisons [[sic]] came that picturesque Range word ‘buffaloed,’ as a slangy synonym for mentally confused.”—The Cowboy by P. A. Rollins, page 261>

<1924 “Where is the railroad station and the two bucks that have got you buffaloed?”—What Price Glory by Anderson & Stallings, page 107>
Notice that HDAS does not include ‘deceive/hoodwink/fool/dupe/cheat’ in its definitions, as doesn't the OED definition below (unless one tries to equate them with ‘outwit’).
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OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY

BUFFALO transitive verb, North American Slang: To overpower, overawe, or constrain by superior force or influence; to outwit, perplex.
1904 “All the rest [of the newspapers] were what we used to term in the Southwest ‘buffaloed’ by the McKinley myth—that is, silenced by the fear of incurring the resentment of a people taught to regard McKinley as a saint.”—New York Evening Post, 25 October, page 10>

<1910 “O'Connor admitted that he was ‘buffaloed’ when he attempted an analysis of his unusual feeling.”—Bucky O’Connor by W. M. Raine, page 77>

<1949 “Neither do I share the author’s hight estimate of Marcus Cato, whom I consider a self-dramatizing, atavistic, political prima donna, who by virtue of an unparalleled genius for denunciation had his whole generation buffaloed except Julius Caesar.”—The Classical Journal, Vol. 45, No. 3, December, page157>

<1986 “During these encounters, attorneys are skilled at impression management take the opportunity to portray themselves as competent, concerned, and not easily fooled or buffaloed.”—American Bar Foundation Research Journal, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring, page 262>

<2005 “. . . IDC [[Intelligent Design Creationism]] is not interested in learning from scientists; its main focus is to deny and distort science for a public too uninformed to know when it is being buffaloed . . .”—The Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 80, No. 2, June, page 241>

<2012 “Looking back on the smoking rubble of Bachmann's campaign, it's hard to see how she buffaloed Pawlenty out of the race.”—National Journal, 4 January>
(Quotes from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources)
_____________________

Ken – January 29, 2012
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Re: buffaloed

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Jan 30, 2012 6:17 am

Ken Greenwald wrote: See Leif’s above posting on the not-too-sharp buffalo. Further confirmation of this view is found in the following (also see 1922 quote below):

SPEAKING FREELY by Flexner & Soukhanov
<“To buffalo someone (1870s) meant to confuse, cheat, or intimidate another. It comes, not as we might assume, from the power of a buffalo herd to frighten or threaten someone, but from the perception of the buffalo as a dim-witted, easily terrorized creature.”>
Here’s what Cassell’s had to say:

CASSELL’S DICTIONARY OF SLANG

BUFFALO verb [late 19th century and still in use] (US): To overawe [[intimidate]], to frighten, to confuse, to pressurize [[pressurize – subject to excessive stress, strain, or vexation]]: [from the size and strength of the animal]
_______________________

According to the above sources Cassell’s evidently got this one backwards – the origin apparently has to do with the weaknesses of the buffalo rather than its size and strength, and ‘overawe’ (intimidate) refers to the fright of the buffalo and not the fear instilled in others due to its ‘size and strength.’
Jonathon Green (editor of The Cassell Dictionary of Slang) seemingly allowed himself to be punked when researching the word (or should it be anti-punked?)

[My boldface in the Cassell quote cited by Ken G.]
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