Steal These Lines

'You can't cut the throat of every cocksucker whose character it would improve'

Words of Wisdom from Deadwood (and Especially Our Buddy Al Swearengen)

No television show loved language more than HBO’s Deadwood, but that statement comes with a caveat: It was not particularly quotable. The dialogue by David Milch and his writers was gorgeous, but it was purposefully verbose and had an often-challenging syntax.

Yet in that thick stew of words and convoluted sentences were tons of great lines, and — more to the point for this article — lots of quotes that can be adapted to your everyday life. My wife and I compiled this list last summer, looking for nuggets that one might use at home, with friends, or in the workplace (but only, it should be stressed, in carefully selected company). A few require a scene partner, but the vast majority are merely waiting for the perfect moment.

With the long-hoped-for Deadwood movie arriving this spring (exact date TBA), I figured that now would be a good time to share. (Here’s hoping the belated return to the South Dakota frontier town is able to expand this list further.)

Of course, some characters in Deadwood liked to hear themselves talk more than others, and one had a particular gift for profane poetry. As a result, more than half of these quotes and exchanges involve our beloved saloon-keeper Al Swearengen (“Swe’gen”), and he’s the speaker where none is noted.

Without further ado ... .

“Either way this comes out, we’ll only have to do it once.” Season 1, Episode 1

“I see as much misery outta them movin’ to justify their selves as them set out to do harm.” Doc Cochran; Season 1, Episode 2

“He’s got a mean way of being happy.” Season 1, Episode 2

“Can you let me go to hell the way I want to?” Wild Bill; Season 1, Episode 4

“Don’t play that shit where you make me drag your words outta you. Declare or shut the fuck up.” Season 1, Episode 6

“Truth isn’t in you, Al.” E.B. Farnum; Season 1, Episode 6

“I had better manners before I began to abstain.” Alma Garrett; Season 1, Episode 7

“You might, Dan, want to learn how to indicate interest in a girl other than murdering another person.” Season 1, Episode 8

“If I’m to get my throat cut, Dan, I’d rather not exert myself further.” Whitney Ellsworth; Season 1, Episode 8

“I wouldn’t trust a man that wouldn’t try to steal a little.” Season 1, Episode 8

“I have just fled my own office in horror at his fucking dimwittedness.” Season 1, Episode 9

“You can’t cut the throat of every cocksucker whose character it would improve.” Season 1, Episode 10

“If I’ve offended you, Mr. Bullock, I’ve accomplished the opposite of my intention, which would not be an unprecedented result.” Otis Russell; Season 1, Episode 11

“Cold enough world without gettin’ gone against by your own.” Seth Bullock; Season 1, Episode 11

“When did you start thinking every wrong had a remedy, Wu?” Season 1, Episode 12

“Welcome to fuckin’ Deadwood! It can be combative.” Season 2, Episode 1

“That’s an uncivil response to an innocent error.” Francis Wolcott; Season 2, Episode 4

“Loyalty expanded is not loyalty betrayed.” Farnum; Season 2, Episode 4

“Panic’s easier on the back than the short-handled shovel.” Ellsworth; Season 2, Episode 4

“Here we are, if tactically disadvantaged, exactly as before in strength!” Farnum; Season 2, Episode 6

“Pain or damage don’t end the world — or despair or fuckin’ beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man, and give some back.” Season 2, Episode 7

Swearengen: “But what fucking happens, Dan?” Dan Dority: “Fucks himself up the ass, Tolliver.” Swearengen: “No mean feat, yet how often we bring it off.” Season 2, Episode 7

“Yet avarice is numbered among the sins, but stupidity omitted.” Farnum; Season 2, Episode 11

“What a type you must consort with that you not fear beating for such an insult.” Season 2, Episode 11

“I got problems enough today without kiting checks on tomorrow’s.” Harry Manning; Season 3, Episode 1

Dority: “I’m older, and I’m much less friendly to fuckin’ change.” Swearengen: “Change ain’t looking for friends. Change calls the tune we dance to.” Season 3, Episode 2

“If you don’t mean to go on to explain yourself, why say anything at all?” Farnum; Season 3, Episode 2

“It’s the learning fucking nothing, Al, that keeps me young.” Jack Langrishe; Season 3, Episode 3

“I have learned through time, Mr. Tolliver, and as repeatedly seem to forget, that whatever temporary comfort relieving my displeasure brings me, my long-term interests suffer.” George Hearst; Season 3, Episode 3

“Some shit’s best walked through alone.” Season 3, Episode 5

“I, too, Bullock, when suspecting I’ve fucked the dog, keenly seek some solitude.” Season 3, Episode 6

“Opinion solicited does not equal one freely voiced.” Season 3, Episode 6

“The obvious merits utterance.” Season 3, Episode 6

“By dissembling our feelings we keep the strategic edge.” Season 3, Episode 6

“So I know someone’s in there, vary your replies.” Season 3, Episode 10

“It’s horrible bein’ shot at. Never gets no better.” Season 3, Episode 10

“I leave here full of confidence knowing you’re thinking in concert.” Trixie; Season 3, Episode 10

“You’re too ugly to be sneaking up on fucking people.” Jewel; Season 3, Episode 11

“You fuckin’ people are the original slow fuckin’ learners.” Season 3, Episode 12

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