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STAFF REPORTS ARE WRITTEN BY THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD, CECIL'S ONLINE AUXILIARY. Furthermore, the origin dates back to the days of the wild west. Of course, it was not only newspaper articles which used the phrase “riding shotgun.” There are also several references of the words in Hollywood’s western movies. He’s ridin’ shotgun for Wells Fargo – or was until last week – and he’s over in my saloon right now, playin’ solitaire!". When it comes to the origin of the phrase “riding shotgun” it is the second meaning that more closely ties in with its origin. One such film was titled Stagecoach, starring John Wayne, which was released in 1939. In several scenes, the character Marshal Curly Wilcox, who is portrayed by George Bancroft, can be seen riding shotgun in order to protect the items they hold in the stagecoach. This 1954 movie, which was directed by André De Toth, features actor Randolph Scott, who plays Larry Delong, a shotgun rider. When it comes to the origin of the phrase “riding shotgun” it is the second meaning that more closely ties in with its origin. The trade was more popular for vehicles carrying either bullion or cash and henc… newsletter. Not surprisingly, catchphrases from westerns soon found their way into everyday speech. How did some crime fiction come to be described as “hard-boiled”? Thus, the sequence seems to be that the usage "shotgun guard" on a stagecoach in the Old West (say, the 1880s) evolved to "riding shotgun" in popular fiction about the Old West in the 1920s and 1930s, from there made its way into movies and television, was applied to automobiles in the 1950s, and finally was shortened to "shotgun" in the 1960s. Sign up for the However, the second meaning to “riding shotgun” is traveling as an armed guard beside the driver. From what we can tell, the expression didn’t arise until long after the stagecoach era ended. Dictionary of American Regional English, edited by Joan Huston Hall, vol. Words and phrases have a beginning to their story just like anything else in history. If the barrels were sawed off, the shot scattered over a wider area, an advantage if you were defending against a group (robbers or wolves, for instance). The term was taken up by US teenagers when referring to riding in the front passenger seat of a car. Where do people get the term "riding shotgun,"referring to the passenger seat in the car? The reference is to the US stagecoaches that were an essential feature of Hollywood westerns - usually being chased by Indians or bad guys in black hats. Please Sir, I know this one. Even Partridge says the phrase “riding shotgun” is a holdover from stagecoach days. The term "shotgun" is also used colloquially to indicate an act performed under duress, as though at gunpoint. newspaper The Ogden Examiner, May 1919 - headed "Ross Will Again Ride Shotgun on Old Stage Coach":. To travel as an armed guard next to a vehicle's driver. The modern phrase, “riding shotgun”, didn’t appear until 1919. The earliest reference I can find in print to people riding shotgun in real life is from the Utah [where else?] Though disdained by marksmen, the shotgun was the weapon of choice among pony express riders and stagecoach guards – indeed, in the late 1880s and early 1890s, an express messenger was called a “shotgun messenger.” A shotgun scattered pellets, making it easy to hit your target at short range. Dropping “riding” and using the simple “shotgun” (as in “I call shotgun”) to mean the passenger seat comes in the early 60s. This Utah newspaper stated in an article titled, “Ross Will Again Ride Shotgun on Old Stage Coach.”. He mentions the term explicitly in the dialogue: "You boys take care of the office for a couple of days. However, the second meaning to “riding shotgun” is traveling as an armed guard beside the driver. Maybe one of the greatest western movies that show a passenger turned into a gunman is the movie titled merely Riding Shotgun. Send questions to Cecil via email@example.com. So when does "riding shotgun" get transferred from stagecoach to automobile? A STAFF REPORT FROM THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD. The Stevens Point Journal (Wisconsin) from September 9, 1891, says: “Of all the devices and inventions for the protection of treasure and circumvention of the road agent, the only one that has stood the test of time and experience is a big, ugly-tempered man with a sawed-off shotgun on the box … [I]t is the business of the man with the sawed-off shotgun not to let [the robber] get the drop, but to blaze away as soon as he shows up. The gun is sawed off for the greater convenience of the messenger in potting road agents. Today, the meaning of the statement “riding shotgun” is to ride in the passenger seat of someone’s vehicle. It was later used many times in print and film when depicting wagons and stagecoaches under threat or attack by bandits. Since the September 2001 terrorist attack in New York, US airlines have begun employing air marshals to protect the planes in flight. Older folks (our age) or fans of old westerns may think this is a stupid question, assuming that the “shotgun” position, next to the driver, derives from the days of the stagecoach, when an armed guard rode next to the driver and carried a shotgun for defense against robbers, wild animals, Indians, and telemarketers. What is the origin of the song “There’s a place in France/Where the naked ladies dance?” Are bay leaves poisonous. So we have references from pulp fiction and from the movies (but not from the Old West itself) using the term "riding shotgun" to refer to the stagecoach guard.