In the American regionalism

Put 'er there, pardner! (i.e. Let's shake hands)

why 'er ?

P.S. When someone is manipulating equipment, such as a crane or a hoist, to move a heavy load, someone directing operations might yell the command "Put 'er down! Put 'er down!" if he notices that the load has become imbalanced. Or he might be motioning the crane operator to keep moving in a certain direction, and then say, "OK. Put 'er there."

Are these two uses related?

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    It's really an "affectation" - most people would say "Put it there!" when proffering a hand to be shaken. – FumbleFingers Nov 29 '14 at 14:40
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    @FumbleFingers, do you have evidence for that? My own perception is that most people when proffering a hand to be shaken say nothing about it because the action speaks for itself. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Nov 29 '14 at 18:43
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    In American English there is a strong tendency to assign feminine gender to "inanimate" objects -- boats, cars, photos -- you name it, and to then use "her", shortened to "`er", as a generic pronoun for such objects. (Or possibly the other way around -- the pronoun could come first and the gender assumption from that.) (While one could read more into this tendency, I doubt that doing so, while possibly amusing, would produce anything resembling truth.) – Hot Licks Nov 29 '14 at 18:58
  • @HotLicks: So the hand is an inanimate object under one's control? – TRomano Nov 29 '14 at 19:01
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    @TRomano - Like I said, don't read more into it than there is. Perhaps rather than "inanimate" I should have said "genderless", but the criteria are not written down anywhere -- it's just a "tendency" (and, no, not that kind). – Hot Licks Nov 29 '14 at 19:03

Since 'her' is referring to the hand, the French word for hand is 'la main' which is feminine gender. To shake hands in Spanish is "... la mano" (feminine). I don't know if your phrase is derived from these, but the gender fits and the West was once owned by either the French or Spanish.


In the early days of the American West there was a serious shortage of females. I think most cowboys used the feminine designation whenever possible. (I don't want to be indelicate, but the right hand may have been a "stand-in" for female companionship.)

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    As distinct from a facetious shortage of females? – TRomano Nov 29 '14 at 14:46

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