When I was a much smaller child I wanted to be many things when I became a bigger child, as I am now. One of these things was a Cowboy. A fairly common dream and the romantic Wild West is still a dear thing to me.
One thing that popped into my head recently among the other rivers of filth was a certain phrase I'd heard several times and never gave much thought to other than it's intended meaning.
" (So&so is the best/meanest/whatever) this side/west of the Mississippi!"
The blatant purpose is to communicate how exemplary the subject in question is. For more concise examples:
"The quickest gun west of the Mississippi!" or "The finest wares this side of the Mississippi." I think you get the idea.
Something that gets to me a little, is that usually the idiom is used to describe a person. Such as the grizzly lawman or the despicable bandit leader. In addition, in the "world" of the classic west I always assumed that "out west" men were manlier, life was harder, and everything had more "American" traits. I don't think this is too far off the concept considering how often our nation identifies with the pioneers, trailblazers and frontier heroes.
Does this mean there are people, possibly more than one, EAST of the Mississippi BETTER/MEANER/FASTER?
Perhaps period Westerners used this modifier because "West of the Mississippi" was the only world they knew so to be able to compare to anyone "EotM" would be impossible. BUT! you better believe they knew just about gal darned everything about everything "WotM" so it was an educated assessment of the subject.
Well, just some food for thought, some brain noms, if you will.
Ya'll come back now, ya'hear?