A colloquial and unkind term used to describe tradespeople, agents and other people you may have a business relationship with, who are are shady, unskilled, unprofessional or simply do not deliver. Even if your plumber is a well intentioned old fellow who just unfortunately flooded your dining room because he twisted a tap in the wrong direction, the description applies as it describes incompetence rather than a lack of moral fibre (although it is arguably unethical to accept a job you cannot carry out).

The association between America's legendary Colt-wielding ranchers and this less flattering definition could be based on both cowboys and less established tradespeople tending to talk big, work alone and have a checkered employment history.

Interestingly, I have not heard Americans link their national icon to reckless plasterers or clueless DBAs. It could be because the more orderly Europeans see cowboys in a different light. The British and Spanish colonists fought with these mercenaries in two separate wars. Nazi and Communist propaganda often portrayed cowboys as a belligerent, individualistic and undisciplined caricature of Americans.