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

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Sep 9 00:56:29 UTC 2011

Since I always check EAN whenever anything interesting approaches --
from the rear -- the 18th century, I offer the following.  (3) is an
antedating of George's October 22, 1828.  (1) and (2) are not the
expression itself, but hint like the others that George is right --
the origin is in the animal, not money.

(1)  1783 -- "The Mahometan Hog. A Tale".  Vermont Journal, published
as Vermont_Journal.; Date: 10-23-1783; Volume: I; Issue: 12; Page:
[4]; Location: Windsor, Vermont.  (Repeated many times, in every
decade into 1822.)

"There is a part in every swine
"No follower or friend of mine
"May taste, what ee'r his inclination,
"On pain of excommunication."
Had he [Mahoment] the sinful part exprest,
They might with safety eat the rest;
But for ONE piece -- they tho't it hard,
 From the whole Hog to be debarr'd

(2)  1788 -- "The GREAT EATER".  Pennsylvania Packet, published as
The Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser; Date: 06-30-1788;
Issue: 2935; Page: [2]; Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In the reign of a Swedish king Charles, a rare wight,
A whole hog, all alive, gobbled up in his fight

(3)  1828 Jan. 19.  Baltimore Patriot, published as Baltimore
Patriot.; Date: 01-19-1828; Volume: XXXI; Issue: 17; Page: [2];
Location: Baltimore, Maryland

After the caucus at Richmond had nominated Jackson and Calhoun on
Monday night, a member, an ancient Crawford man, said to a looker on,
"Well, R, I have gone the whole hog." "Yes", replied the gentleman
accosted, "_two of them_."

(4)  1828 July 8.   "The Great Jackson Dinner.  American Mercury;
Date: 07-08-1828; Volume: XLIV; Issue: 2297; Page: [3]; Location:
Hartford, Connecticut.  This is a political essay (satire?) prompted
by July 4, and the following surely must be taken metaphorically.

... fell hunger strode madly o'er the table---he carried devastation
& dismay into every platter, and though he did not "go the whole
hog," yet many a brown'd and squeakless pig scarecely for a moment
withstood his carniverous yearnings.

There seem to be several more applications of "go|went|going|gone the
whole hog" in 1828, to other surroundings.  As I remember, 1828 was a
contentious election year, Andy's first run for office.

(5)  1832 -- political again, in the next presidential election
year.  Enquirer, published as Richmond Enquirer; Date: 10-26-1832;
Volume: XXIX; Issue: 49; Page: [4]; Location: Richmond, Virginia

Such is the language of a thorough-going, "whole hog" Clay paper!


At 9/8/2011 06:56 PM, George Thompson wrote:
>VS writes:
>The problem with tracking down explanations of old phrases is that there
>are always alternatives. For example, there are competing theories for "to
>whole hog".  ***
>The third, however, which is not fully spelled out, is the one that may
>be relevant here.
>"Hog" (see hog n.1 11.a. and b.) is a shilling (or a dime, if 11.b.
>is accurate). If this is the original sense of "hog" in "living high on
>the hog", then the phrase is far more ironic than the "eating high [up]
>on/off the hog" might suggest.
>      It seems that the earliest form of this expression is
>"*Go /the/ Whole Hog*"  This is a slang phrase in Kentucky, or some of the
>western states. . . .
>New-York Evening Post, October 22, 1828, p. 2, col. 1
>HDAS: 1828, citing OED2, a different passage; Whiting, EAPPS: 1830; Taylor &
>Whiting: 1836
>So, if a "hog" is a coin, then "go the whole hog" = "bet all the money"
>makes sense.  But early users of the expression seem to have taken the "hog"
>to be the animal:
>"I'm flambergasted! if that ain't what I call *goin the whole cretur*, he'd
>go to Congress from old Kentuck as easy as I could put a gin sling under my
>[William A. Caruthers.]  *The Kentuckian in New-York, or, the Adventures of
>Three Southerns*.  By a Virginian.  2 vols.  N. Y.: Harpers, 1834.  vol. 1,
>p. 188
>HDAS: (this passage)
>And I think I have seen "go the entire animal" in newspapers of this era,
>but haven't made a note of where.
>On Mon, Sep 5, 2011 at 9:50 AM, Garson O'Toole
><adsgarsonotoole at>wrote:
> > 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.
> > (GenealogyBank)
> >
> > "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 -
> >
>George A. Thompson
>Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ.
>Pr., 1998, but nothing much since then.
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list