I Never Knew

I’ve certainly heard the phrase “living high on the hog” before, and just assumed that it referred to living a life of luxury. But I never gave any thought to how and when the phrase was originated.

Until last night that is, when it was a question on Jeopardy.

Here was the clue:

“A possible origin for “living” this way is that uppercuts of pork are more a luxury item than the feet.”

And the question was “What is living high on the hog.”

Here’s the video of the question; it starts at about 2:20.

As soon as I saw the clue, it became obvious how the phrase originated, but until then I never knew.

So I thought I’d do a little digging on the origin of the phrase, and one of the first items I came across is the fact that it seems to be of American origin.

Here is what one person wrote about the phrase:

There is a consensus that it literally means the meat on a hog, the higher cuts, physically, the loins and hams were considered more desirable, luxurious, and therefore more expensive. 

One of the earliest print examples comes from a March 1920 edition of The New York Times: “Southern laborers who are eating too high up on the hog (pork chops and ham) and American housewives who “eat too far back on the beef” (porterhouse and round steak) are to blame for the continued high cost of living, the American Institute of Meat Packers announced today.”

It’s funny how the phrase “high on the hog” has stood the test of time, but “too far back on the beef” never seemed to catch on (at least not that I’m aware of).

I assume people would have different interpretations of what living high on the hog means to them. For me, it would be pretty simple –  just give me a good book, a smoothie (or a beer), and some warm weather, and I’d tell people that I was living high on the hog.

The other interesting item I found while doing my research on the origin of this phrase was discovering a link to a website, “161 Phrases ‘Coined in the USA‘”, of which “high on the hog” is one. (interesting side note – it’s a British website).

So be on the lookout for future posts where I share information about how phrases like “a shot in the arm”, “as happy as a clam”, and “the bee’s knees” came into existence.

I know I’m excited since this means that there is the potential for 160 more blog posts. If that happens, I’ll be “on cloud nine”.

*image from Edible Indy

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