Will you help me out? For over 40 years, I’ve been trying to figure out this Steve McQueen line from my favorite Western, The Magnificent Seven: “It took me a long time to learn my elbow from a hot rock.”

Mike Appel

Belleville, Illinois

I’m thinking that back in 1960, scriptwriters used gentler words. Today McQueen would probably say, “Back then, I didn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground,” or something similar.  If I was writing the script, I’d have had him say something like, “Back then, I didn’t know which end of a cow gets up first.”

Western film expert Jim Dunham adds, “Unlike the term ‘Huckleberry,’ which was as popular in the Old West as ‘cool’ in more recent times or ‘Daisy,’ which comes right out of direct quotes of what Doc [Holliday] said, I have never heard the McQueen remark connected to period language. I think it is a scriptwriter’s invention.”

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