Creative Slang in my Town

Butte, Montana - home of great miner slang still in use today!
Butte, Montana – home of great miner slang still in use today!

The town of Butte, Montana has an amazing history of mining, and the colorful past made a lasting influence here.

The copper that was pulled out of the mountains helped to electrify the country, and improve the world.  But there was a dark side to progress — in the late 1800s and early 1900s, many miners died and were badly injured just doing their every day job.  

Many of the immigrant miners were from Ireland, and the city of Butte was legendary in Ireland.  There was even a song in Ireland about Butte back then, with a verse saying “Butte was paved with Irish bones”!

As people do, whether a mile below ground in a hard rock mine, or in the battle field trench, they often resort to “gallows humor” to help deal with the situation.

Slang is one way they did that here, and some of the phrases and words are still with us:

Tap 'er light, when used today, means "take it easy!"
Tap ‘er light, when used today, means “take it easy!”

* Tap ‘er light

When drilling a hole in a mine, and then packing the dynamite into the hole, the miners told the guy doing the tapping “tap ‘er light,” which means “hey, take it easy!”  

One wrong move – or a tap too hard! – and the entire mountain could come down on their heads.

Now, when you hear the phrase “tap ‘er light” in these parts, it means “take it easy,” but whenever I hear it, I think of those miners and imagine the moment in the mine when he first started his tapping!    

* Duggan

Big rocks and rubble in these parts are called “Duggans”  (pronounced ‘doo-gins’), as that was the name of the undertaker, Larry Duggan!  

As in, “hey that rock is so big, it’s a Duggan – if she falls on your head, it’s over!”

* You’se

This is kind of a weird contraction, like a plural ‘you’, combining “you” and “all,” except “y’all” was already taken by the southerners!

You’se is pronounced ‘yoose’.  Many natives of Butte, when they are trying to address a group of people, instead of saying “you guys,” they will say “you’se”!

And almost every time one hears “you’se,” it’s in a farewell.  Such as, “see you’se later!”

For commercial writing that won’t be a “Duggan” to your business, go here.

Tap ‘er light!

Old school copywriting still works for them

There is a lot of noise these days about what makes for good sales copy.  The whole discussion is probably confused by the shocking number of ways to get your selling messages across.  Most people are trying to figure out the best way to write for:

  • Book-Face
  • Twitta
  • Email
  • LinkedIn
  • e-newsletters, etc. (you get the point)

So many channels, and only so much time and money to spend on all this advertising.  BUT – with all the new media, it still appears the old media is working just fine!

Take for instance…

  • ValueLine
Value Line uses effective sales methods.  Direct mail, product with lots of value, endorsements from investors.
Value Line uses effective sales methods. Direct mail, product with lots of value, endorsements from investors.

This is the old and famous investing newsletter that Warren Buffett loves.  He keeps their issues for decades.

ValueLine’s flagship product is a black and white, 3-hole punched newsletter that they print on thin newspaper.  They send these issues out, and they are very expensive (I know, I’m a subscriber!)

ValueLine still sells lots and lots of newsletters through their direct mail campaigns, combined with plain old follow up by phone.

And also…

  • Fisher Investments

The leader of this company (Ken Fisher) once said at a conference I listened to, “at Fisher Investments, we send out so much junk mail it’s unbelievable!  We’re one of the biggest junk mailers in the country!”

What he meant was that they just pounded their mailing lists with direct mailers over and over and over again.  What they are doing is working, because their money under management keeps growing and growing.

This long running ad uses the classic -- and every effective -- tools of persuasive copywriting.  Headline - Client Qualifying - Free report - Instant gratification
This long running ad uses the classic — and very effective — tools of persuasive copywriting. Headline – Client Qualifying – Free report – Instant gratification.  Great profitable ad!

What I love about Fisher Investments is they have been running the same message for years and years, and that’s because it works.  Here is their simple ad (you have probably seen this on a website somewhere):

“10 Ways To Generate Income in Retirement:  If you have a $500,000+ portfolio, download this must-read guide by Forbes columnist and money manager Ken Fisher’s firm. It’s called The Definitive Guide to Retirement Income. Even if you have something else in place right now, it still makes sense to request your guide! <click here to get your guide>”

The simple formula for Fisher Investments is just a free report, as well as direct mail to those people that would make good clients.  They keep mailing and e-mailing those reports, and the client money keeps pouring in!

  • Your business

You might try a white paper or case study, showing how your products and services can help solve problems for clients.  And then give those away and use them for lead generation.  It’s the same model as Fisher Investments, and it just might work for you!

If you would like us to go to work on a white paper, case study, direct mail letter, or another piece of excellent sales copy for you, we stand ready!