Yeah, I know we all know what howdy means. And I suppose it's just a contraction of "how do you do?" But I'm curious about its Western twang. Do only Americans say it? And what kind of Americans say it? And when?
I've been known to use the word, but there's a bit of jokiness in its usage, and its certainly a relaxed situation when I would introduce myself in this way. I can't actually think of the last time I said it.
Apparently, its origins are more Southern than Western, and the word is a contraction of "how do ye". It was first recorded as "how de" in 1828, and our present spelling is from 1837. It is a southern expression, but migrated west with Civil War vets.
Thinking about this word made me think about the expression "Boy howdy". I'm pretty sure the first time I ever heard it was on Big Valley when Lee Majors said it in passing to Barbara Stanwyck. Of course, Big Valley was set in Stockton, California, but Majors was originally from the south, so perhaps he slipped it in. It is a Southernism usually attributed to Texas, and if for some reason you've never heard it, it really just means "Wow!" According to The Word Detective, there's a theory that it was brought to other parts of the U.S. after World War One, when returning vets used the term after hearing it from their Texan counterparts.
If there's one thing I've learned from doing this blog, it's that soldiers and sailors have had an awful lot to do with the dissemination of language over the centuries.