Idiom: living high on the hog; eating too high up on the hog (antedating 1919 November 28)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Sep 5 13:50:00 UTC 2011

At a dinner party last night I was asked about the expression "living
high on the hog." The OED has this phrase listed under the entry for
hog with a first citation dated 1940:

hog, n.1,
Phrases 8. orig. and chiefly U.S. to live (also eat) high off (also
on) the hog : to live in an extravagant or luxurious style. Hence: to
live (also eat) low off (also on) the hog (and variants).

The Phrase Finder website has a page on this topic with valuable
information. The earliest citation is a New York Times article dated
March 4, 1920. The phrase in the newspaper differs slightly from the
one given in the OED:

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.

Here is an excerpt from citation in 1919. The article is labeled "From
the Chicago News," so an earlier cite probably exists. The article
consists of a "joke" in "dialect" with a framing commentary:

Cite: November 28, 1919, Kansas City Star, One Cause for the H. C. L.:
We Eat "Too Far up on the Hog," District Attorney in Chicago Says
[Comment: H. C. L. may mean High Cost of Living], Page 13, Missouri.

"What is the reason for high prices on everything?" United States
District Attorney Charles F. Clyne was asked the other day. His answer
was enigmatic.

'There was a negro woman down South whose husband was rather no
account," he said.

[Comment: The woman leaves the husband. At a later time she meets him.
He offers her "pickled pigs' feet," but she rejects them because she
says that these days she is eating "furder up on de hog."]

"We're eating too high up on the hog," Mr. Clyne concluded.

The American Dialect Society -

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