Another "pea patch" phrase

Posted by R. Berg on October 09, 2001

In Reply to: Dragged through the pea patch posted by James Briggs on October 09, 2001

: : : I told a friend of mine that I thought her girlfriend looked as though she had been 'dragged through the peapatch'. Can anyone tell me where I got that from?

: : Here's a guess. There's an expression about someone looking like he has "been dragged through hell backwards." Substituting "pea patch" for "hell" is just cleaning up the phrase. It's sounds southern to me.

: It's 'a hedge backwards' in the UK

Eric Partridge (Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day) explains a related expression, "He's/they're tearing up the pea patch":

He is, or they are, ruining the game . . . hence, 'going on a rampage' . . . applied orig. to baseball: US: c. 1945-55, then decreasingly, although still heard at least as late as 1969. The expression was popularized by Walter Barber [announcer for Brooklyn Dodgers].
[From a letter from a friend of Partridge's:] Sportscaster Walter 'Red' Barber . . . was from the South, and most Southern boys lard their speech with homely colloquial phrases. Black-eyed peas are a favourite Southern dish, and almost everyone has a pea patch. If a stray dog or cow broke through the fence and got into one of these pea patches, a great deal of damage was done. One might hear such an expression as 'That critter is tearing up the pea patch!' It is an old expression down South and 'Red' Barber didn't create it. He popularized it. In describing a 'rhubarb' (baseball slang for a fight among players of opposing teams . . . ) Barber would exclaim, 'They're tearing up the pea patch!' His listeners got the picture right away.