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calf-rope, holler v phr

Also call calf-rope, cry ~ say ~ yell ~; also calf-rope exclam[Origin uncert]chiefly South Midland, Gulf StatesSee Map

Esp in children’s games: to give in, surrender; to capitulate.

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  • 1878 Eggleston Roxy 44 sIN, [They] pummeled each other in a friendly way until the challenger, finding that his antagonist had entirely stopped respiration, was forced to “hollow calf-rope,” that is, to signify by gestures that he was beaten.
  • 1906 DN 3.129 nwAR, Calf-rope [kæfrop]. . . I give up, I surrender. “I’ll give it to him till he yells calf-rope.”
  • 1908 DN 3.296 eAL, wGA, I’ll make him say calf-rope.
  • 1933 AmSp 8.1.31 nwTX, In an argument, rassel, or any sort of contest, a fellow could acknowledge his opponent’s superiority, and usually stop hostilities immediately, by saying calf-rope. In extreme cases, however, the conquered was made to spell it.
  • Ibid 49 Ozarks, Holler calf-rope. . . To acknowledge oneself beaten. When one boy throws another down in a wrestling match, the defeated wrestler hollers calf-rope, usually by crying “enough” or “I give up.”
  • 1942 Faulkner Go Down 109 nMS, That I reneged, cried calf-rope, sold my birthright, betrayed my blood, for what he calls not peace but obliteration, and a little food.
  • 1950 WELS Suppl. , Calf-rope [a response to the question] “Do you surrender?” [in] children’s tussles. At branding time new calves were chased, roped, trussed and rendered helpless for branding. Hence: “Calf-rope.” Used in Texas.
  • 1954 Harder Coll. cwTN, Calf rope—[The truce term in] a children’s game in which the winner forces the loser to scream “calf rope,” usually after the loser has had his arm twisted until it is almost sprained or broken.
  • Ibid, To holler calf rope—to give up, surrender. “I made ’im yell calf rope. I beat ’at old head in for ’im.”
  • c1960 Wilson Coll. csKY, Calf rope—Nuff!
  • 1964 Wallace Frontier Life 97 cwOK (as of c1900), She [mother] said that someone “yelled calf rope” if he had given up or called for help.
  • 1965–70 DARE
    Qu. EE20, When two boys are fighting, and the one who is losing wants to stop, he calls out, “_____.”
    53 Infs, chiefly S Midl, Gulf States, Calf-rope; AL20, Calf-rope (old), uncle; GA86, I made him holler calf-rope; KY89, You win, calf-rope—when somebody twists your arm; LA2, Calf-rope [FW: Inf’s high school aged grandson had not heard of this]; OK31, Uncle (now), calf-rope (when I was young); TN8, Calf-rope (old-fashioned), help (modern); TN16, Let’s quit, I give up, calf-rope (more in rassling than in fighting); TX39, Calf-rope—This is what you make the other fellow say if you want to stop and you’re winning; very humiliating to have to say this; I give; TX42, Calf-rope—winner makes loser say this, or offers to stop pummeling; king’s ex; TX45, Calf-rope (old-fashioned) = I give up.
  • 1976 Brown Gloss. Faulkner 44, Calf rope. . . One child seizes a handful of another’s hair (probably originally a girl’s pigtail) and keeps pulling until the victim says “calf rope.” From this usage, to say calf rope gets the general meaning of to “give in, surrender, admit defeat.”
calf-rope, holler (Qu. EE20)