“I’m your huckleberry!”
One of our more popular, fun polls in the early stages of Poll Smash has been “What is the best Doc Holliday quote from Tombstone?” This is not a surprise. The role of Doc Holliday, played by Val Kilmer in the movie Tombstone, is one of the finest roles played by any actor in any movie in film history. I must have seen it at the theater at least three times when it came out many years ago. Since then, I have enjoyed it countless times.
Of all the quotes we selected for our community to vote on, “I’m your huckleberry” has clearly been the fan favorite. Interestingly enough, it did not receive my vote. My favorite quote was, “Evidently Mr. Ringo is an educated man. Now I really hate him.” I like this quote so much because of the context in which it was said. The verbal exchange in Latin between Holliday and Ringo during that scene sets the mood for the suspenseful rising action between those two nemeses. Regardless, the fans have made it very clear what their favorite quote is, so I thought I would spend a moment elaborating on the quote “I’m your huckleberry”, and what made it so great.
“I’m your huckleberry” is fine enough on the surface. For one to say, “I’m your huckleberry” during that time period simply meant, “I’m your guy.” So, when Ringo said, “Don’t any of you have the guts to play for blood?” and Doc replied, “I’m your huckleberry”, he may simply have meant, “I’m your guy.” On its own, this interpretation is fitting enough to the plot. However, if we dig a little deeper, we can find more intense and interesting meanings behind this phrase, and therefore a more rewarding experience.
In addition to simply meaning, “I’m your guy”, the phrase “I’m your huckleberry” can have at least two deeper meanings that I am aware of, both of which add depth to the character of Doc Holliday. Elena Sandidge, incidentally, has previously suggested both of these interpretations. You can visit her website at: elenasandidge.com. Let’s explore those meanings now.
First, Huckleberry Finn was the outcast in the Tom Sawyer books by Mark Twain. He was the boy whom parents forbade their children to play with because he was too much trouble. Therefore, when Doc refers to himself as Huckleberry, he is suggesting to Ringo that he is Huckleberry Finn to Ringo as Tom Sawyer, meaning that he is nothing but trouble for Ringo. This sophisticated allusion makes sense coming from Doc to Ringo, especially considering both of their educated natures and their preclusion for posturing their intellects. To be sure, it makes for some highbrow trash-talking, which, again, is fitting for their relationship in the story.
To understand the second possible interpretation, one must know that Doc Holliday was originally from the South, a town called Griffin, Georgia to be exact. A southern word for the handles on a casket is huckles. Therefore, what we typically call a pallbearer would have been known in Doc’s southern slang as a huckle-bearer. Further, if we consider the southern drawl with which Doc speaks (a performance especially well executed by Kilmer), and we listen to the quote closely, it actually sounds like he is saying, “I’m your huckle-bearer.” This pun, whether intentional or not, is a damn clever and badass way to say, “I’m the one who is going to carry you to your grave.”
Regardless of the intended meaning, all three work well in the movie. To me, the huckle-bearer pun is so fitting for Doc, and adds another dimension to the quote, the role, and the movie in general, and I just love to think that is what was meant when the script was written.
By the way, you can still cast your vote on your Favorite Doc Holliday quote from Tombstone by clicking on the caveman below. Also, check out another one of our popular movie quote polls, What is your favorite Hannibal Lecter quote?
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