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all hat and no cattle

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all hat and no cattle

  1. (US, idiomatic) Full of big talk but lacking action, power, or substance; pretentious.
    • 1980, Patricia Calvert, The Snowbird, Scribner, →ISBN, page 29,
      A fortune can be made on the prairie, and that's what me and Mr. B aim to do. Don't aim to be all hat and no cattle forever, let me tell you!
    • c. 1982, Paul W. Cronin, quoted in Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein (Eds.), The American Elections of 1982, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (1983), →ISBN, page 82,
      They provided a lot of talk, what Texans refer to as “all hat and no cattle.”
    • 1985, Regis MacKenna, The Regis Touch: Million-Dollar Advice from America’s Top Marketing Consultant, Addison-Wesley Longman, Incorporated, →ISBN, page 27,
      There’s an old Texas saying about a cowboy who was “all hat and no cattle.” That is, he was all show and no substance.
    • 1998, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "I Only Have Eyes for You" (roughly 24.5 minutes in):
      Drusilla: It's time, Angel. She's ready for you now, she's dancing, dancing with death.
      Spike: Big deal, he won't do anything. Our man Angel here likes to talk, but he's not much for action. All hat and no cattle.
    • 1999, Randy Newman, "Big Hat, No Cattle", from the album Bad Love, ASIN B00000J7R4, Uses variation of idiom in refrain:
      "Big Hat, no cattle / Big head, no brain / Big snake, no rattle".
    • 2001, Janis L. Edwards, "Running in the Shadows in Campaign 2000: Candidate Metaphors in Editorial Cartoons", in American Behavioral Scientist, Volume 44 Issue 12, page 2142,
      We expect a leader to be effective in his job, not just a public relations artist who is "all hat and no cattle."
    • 2007, John Saul, "Freewheeling", in Call It Tender, Salt Publishing, →ISBN, page 31,
      She slapped my backside. Yew ol’ cowpoke.
      I’m a cowpoke?
      Yew certainly are. All hat and no cattle.

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