Living high on the hog, black sheep, and other ag idioms

Hogs in a hoop house

Photo by Flickr user Friends of Family Farmers, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Word nerd that I am, I couldn’t resist sharing this recent post from Modern Farmer. Andy Wright gets the lowdown on a range of agriculture-derived expressions from Christine Ammer, author of the wonderful American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Take, for example, living high on the hog. As Ammer details,

To live high on the hog is to prosper luxuriously, and it alludes to the choicest cuts of meat which are found on the hog’s upper flanks. And that come from the late 1800s.

Makes sense, right? Less obvious is the origin of the expression, buy the farm:

That dates from about the 1950s … [and] it means to die. To ‘buy the farm’ alludes to training flights of the air force that were crashing in the farmers’ fields. And when they did the farmers sued the government and the settlements were often enough to pay off the farmer’s mortgage. Since the pilot often died in such a crash he, in effect, bought the farm with his life. It may have originated in World War I, but I haven’t found any specific examples of that.

For more interesting linguistic tidbits, check out the full post.


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