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 0684167190, 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 0844735310, 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 0201139812, 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 1844713229, page 31,
      She slapped my backside. Yew ol’ cowpoke.
      I’m a cowpoke?
      Yew certainly are. All hat and no cattle.