Why Do We Say “Bring Home the Bacon?”

You can bet the farm on the way agriculture comes up in the way we talk. Many of the words and phrases we use in everyday life — like “flew the coop” or “spring chicken” — come to us from previous generations who lived their lives on the farm.

When we use these figures of speech today, it connects us to a time when agriculture was at the center of family and civic life. These phrases are an unconscious reminder of the region’s farming roots that continue to live on in our language.

Some idioms celebrate the good times, like “living high on the hog,” a phrase that came about in the late 1800s to reference the best cuts of meat, often found on the hog’s upper flanks, that a family would enjoy when resources were abundant.

“Bringing home the bacon” also means to earn a good living. The phrase was coined in 1924, but the term goes back to the tradition of catching a pig at the fair and taking it home as a prize.

Farming isn’t always easy, and we still use phrases that reflect that. When something is “not worth a hill of beans” it means it’s trivial or has little value. Being the “black sheep” or oddball of the family goes back to when black wool stood out as being harder to dye than white wool.

Many of these idioms go back several generations or longer. Keeping them in the lexicon reminds us why farming continues to be an essential part of modern life. Learn how farmers continue these traditions today at www.asapconnections.org

Aired 5/16/16

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