“I’m your huckleberry…” – A Guide to Doc Holliday Slang

35 thoughts on ““I’m your huckleberry…” – A Guide to Doc Holliday Slang”

    1. there is a weed that produces little round stickers that i called a huckelberry. could it also mean
      “i’ll stick with you” or “you can’t get rid of me”??

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m a huge Tombstone fan, and think it’s the best role Val Kilmer ever played. Thank you for the explanation!! I really enjoyed it!!

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      1. I was told once, not sure where, that a huckleberry is the last nail in a person’s coffin. Therefore I thought that the phrase implied that the person who said it would “finish the job”

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  2. A hucklebearer is a paulbearer as the handles on a casket are known as huckles. So if Doc Holiday is preparing to put a man in his grave wouldn’t he in retrospect be accepting the roll as pallbearer or “hucklebearer?” Surely as an educated man he understands and surely may very well have used the term “huckleberry” in many a “game of poker” but educated as he was could he not have had the ability and motive to distinguish the two terms at such times as the moment called for either action. THE MAN KNEW WHO FREDERIC FRICKIN CHOPAN WAS!!! HE INSIGHTED SPELLING CONTESTS! HE WAS ENLIGHTENED!!! Now Val Kilmer, as the roll of Doc Holiday, speaking with the accent of a distinguished southern gentleman, if you watch Tombstone and listen closely he’s clearly saying what sounds like “hucklebearah.” To me, the accent just does not translate the word from “bearah” to “berry” just tired of the average American opinion just simply making something “the way it is.” The “be all end all” because that’s the way I like how it sounds. Why do you think the world hates us as a nation. Because of George Bush?! HE’S ONE MAN AND THAT’S PREPOSTEROUS!! OK maybe you think now I’m a die hard republican. Got news for ya, it’s not Barrack Obama’s fault either. WAKE UP AMERICA!!! YA BUNCHA SELF RIGHTIOUS GRANDIOSE IDGIOTS!!! simply just sayin.

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    1. Hi Mark, thanks for your comment. I’m aware of Hucklebearer as a phrase and I understand where you’re coming from as far as Val’s drunken Southern accent goes. In some parts of Tombstone it does sound like hucklebearer and in others it sounds like Huckleberry. The original script used Huckleberry. Whether or not Val decided to deviate and use Hucklebearer, we’ll never know for sure. If I can ever pin down Val for an interview, I guarantee you that will be a question I’ll ask! When Kevin Jarre was asked about ‘I’m your huckleberry’ he said that it was just something that he made up that sounded good. As you can see from my newspaper clip though, the phrase was fashionable back then and was being used in this Dodge City Times article in 1880, just a year before the gunfight in Tombstone. Whether or not the real Doc Holliday used either of these phrases we’ll never know for sure. He did say “You’re a daisy if you have” before shooting Frank McLaury during the gunfight though 😉

      Anyway, I just put forward my two cents about things like these. I love accents and I love phraseology. I’ve tried my hardest to capture the right speech for my novels, including Doc Holliday’s Georgian drawl. I hope you’ll check them out and give them a read!

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      1. You both are right! I live in Arizona. Well, I was told back then that the “Final Nail” in the coffin was called the Huckleberry. So being a Hucklebearer….is driving the final nail in the coffin known as the Huckleberry!

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    2. You are quite correct that in Appalachia a word ending in “er” is quite commonly pronounced “ah.” Therefore it would be and is still common to hear “hucklebearer” pronounced as “hucklebearah.” I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of deep eastern Kentucky where it still this way. I was actually once hired in Philadelphia as a translator of depositions of Appalachian witnesses in the Philadelphia courts. Another common pronunciation in the region is to pronounce a word ending in “rah” as “rie” such as the woman’s name Sarah which is more often pronounced “sarie” with the “ah” pronounced as a long “e.”
      Following that pattern it’s not difficult to imagine the transformation of hucklebearer to hucklebearah to huckleberry.
      Just one more possibility to consider when trying to decipher Appalachian slang in places like Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Georgia.

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  3. Reblogged this on dreamer girl and commented:

    I was lying in bed cuddling my dog and pondering the words, “I’m your huckleberry.” And then I discovered this great post and blog and just had to share. Plus, I’ve actually eaten huckleberry pie. Rock on, sugars. dreamergir

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  4. Elena, Tombstone is my favorite movie and I love the Doc quotes….thanks for the great explanations…you’re a Daisy!

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  5. Hi Elena,
    I don’t know anywhere else I could have found such a great insight regarding this quote. It is just what I was looking for. I want to let you know that I cited you on my website in an article I wrote about this quote myself. In particular, I referred to your points about Tom Sawyer as well as the Hucklebearer analysis. We also have a popular poll attached to that article that you and your readers may enjoy. I would love to share that fun poll with you and your audience, but I don’t want to appear like I am just droping a link. The poll provides 9 of Doc’s greatest quotes. Incidentally, “I’m Your Huckleberry” leads with 717 votes (43%).

    Anyway, I really enjoyed this article, and I just wanted to inform you of how you helped me provide a useful article to my audience. Thanks again.

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  6. I was under the impression that huckleberry meant sucker, or rube or naive person. I thought him using that term was in a sarcastic manner to Ringo.

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    1. Hi Jeff. The “You’re a daisy if you have” was a quote that the real Doc Holliday was heard to say at the gunfight. The whole conversation was, “I’ve got you now you Son of a Bitch.”
      Doc: “Blaze away, you’re a daisy if you have.”

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    2. The original conversation as reported by witnesses at the OK Corral incident state that Holliday’s adversary said to Doc ” I have got you now ! “…thus Doc replied, ” You are a daisy if you have “….

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    3. The original conversation as reported by witnesses at the OK Corral incident state that Holliday’s adversary said to Doc ” I have got you now ! “…thus Doc replied, ” You are a daisy if you have “….

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  7. I liked my dad’s explanation. He said it was a prickle-like seed that some kid would put under your saddle before you hopped on your horse, so the horse would throw you when you hopped on.

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  8. Thank you, Elena. That phrase has been gnawing at me since the movie. I assumed it was a slang from Doc’s era, but I could never find out for sure what it meant. Thanks.

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  9. I´m a Tombstone and also an english language fan, and I´m always looking for differents ways of expression and phrases in slang…thank you very much for this article…cheers from Argentina…!!!

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  10. Thanks for the article! I live in the South and have been eating Huckleberries since I was a child. They taste very much like a Blueberry and are used to make a wonderful pie, cobbler, or cooked with sweet dumplings. They grow wild in mixed hardwood and pine forests on a bush/shrub that usually grows to a height of around five feet. Depending on the weather, richness of the soil, and amount of rainfall as the berries develop, an average bush might only yield a pint or less of fruit. To pick enough Huckleberries to make a pie can be quite time consuming, one reason being the temptation to eat as many or more as you put in your bucket!

    Having said that, and KNOWING how difficult it can be to find enough of these delicious little berries, I believe the saying relates to the situation prior to the actual game gunfight. Johnny Ringo was looking to “pick” a fight with Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday was simply telling, okay taunting him by telling him to “pick” him (as one would search for a Huckleberry to pick) as the opponent in the gunfight. In other words, Doc was saying, “Look over here, I’m the big, juicy Huckleberry you been looking for!”

    Anyway, that is my belief.

    Isn’t it amazing I was able to express my opinion without slinging political “mud” in any direction, as opposed to some who seem to be somewhat lacking in that particular arena of American discourse.

    Thanks for allowing me to express my viewpoint. Having lived in, along with my love for, and appreciation of the nuances of the language used in the South for more than 60 years has given me the opportunity and insight to the ways in which we express ourselves in the land of Dixie!

    Best wishes in your future endeavors!

    Bryan

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  11. From http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-huc1.htm
    “There’s also a huckleberry over one’s persimmon, something just a little bit beyond one’s reach or abilities; an example is in David Crockett: His Life and Adventures by John S C Abbott, of 1874”

    Hypothesis: If a job is “a huckleberry over your persimmon” then you need a huckleberry to help you get the job done. So, “I’m your huckleberry” means “Despite my humble abilities, I’m able to help you overcome any short-comings you have to doing the job.” That is, “I’m the Robin to your Batman.” or “I’m not much but I’m the man for the job.”

    This is close to the association with “I’m the Huckleberry to your Tom Sawyer” but the Huckleberry association doesn’t really fit since Huck Finn was not Tom’s sidekick by any stretch. The similarity might be only coincidental and have nothing especially to do with Mark Twain’s characters.

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  12. I am familiar with the history of the phrase “I’m your huckleberry” and simply felt in the context of the movie Doc was saying he was ‘ripe for the picking’.

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  13. Sorry Mark, you’re wrong. The article is correct what the term means, but not much else.

    “I’m your huckleberry” is a way of saying that “I am the right person for a given job” or “I’m willing.”

    The word originated when European settlers arrived in the New World around 1670 and found several plants with small, dark-colored sweet berries. They reminded the settlers of the Hurtleberry from their place of origin. Over time it turned into Huckleberry.

    Huckleberry was used in may ways in the 1800’s, most of them related to the the small size of the berry. Here are some of the ways:
    -The most important/well known way, was as first stated, “I’m your man for the job”
    -a unit of measurement. It would be on a recipe card in the same way a “pinch” or “a tad” would be used today.
    -the quote “He was within a huckleberry of being smothered to death” is said to be from 1832. We would use something like “sliver” or “eyelash” today.
    -a way of sarcastic self-deprication to say “I’m unimportant”(but not really)
    -a way to call someone unimportant
    -The Huckleberry/Persimmon relationship is interesting because it was used in a few ways,
    both based on the vast difference in size between the larger persimmon and the smaller
    Huckleberry:
    1. “I’m a huckleberry TO your persimmon” meant “I’m David, You’re Goliath”
    2. “I’m a huckleberry OVER your persimmon” meant “I’m better than you.”
    3. “It was a huckleberry over MY persimmon” meant it was too difficult or just out of reach.
    While the difference in the first two is slight:
    #1 is spoken with humility toward someone
    #2 is a direct smackdown to someone
    #3 harkens back to the self-deprication, however without the sarcasm. That phrase was used in the 1874 Biography of Davey Crockett by John SC Abbott.

    In 1895, when speaking of the development of Huckleberry Finn and the relationship fo the character to the name, Twain said “[his idea] was to establish that he was a boy ‘of lower extraction or degree’ than Tom Sawyer.” These are direct correlations to the idea that the Huckleberry was primarily a negative connotation.

    How “I’m your huckleberry” came out of all that with the sense of the man for the job isn’t obvious. It seems that the word came to be given as a mark of affection or comradeship to one’s partner or sidekick. There is often an identification of oneself as a willing helper or assistant about it, as here in True to Himself, by Edward Stratemeyer, dated 1900: “ ‘I will pay you for whatever you do for me.’ ‘Then I’m your huckleberry. Who are you and what do you want to know?’ ”. Despite the obvious associations, it doesn’t seem to derive directly from Mark Twain’s books

    It goes even further back in print than 1880, they find the “huckleberry over my persimmon” quote in an 1874a Davy Crockett Biography, and then a common quote from 1832: “He was within a huckleberry of being smothered to death.”

    Huck Finn

    He says “huckleberry” not hucklebearah. That’s called an accent.
    Yes, Doc was an educated man, but I’m your Huckleberry was a very common expression

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