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Root, hog, or die

Posted by R. Berg on January 04, 2003

In Reply to: Root hog or die posted by thx on January 04, 2003

: : : I want to know where the phrase "Root, Hog, or Die" originated from and how.

: : If I find the phrase in a reference book, I'll post again. But from my own knowledge, here's what the phrase means. It's a country/rural saying. Domestic hogs were turned out to fend for themselves in the woods, thus lowering the farmer's feeding costs. The hog had to "root" or forage for his own food -- acorns, etc., -- or die.

: : "Root hog or die" means provide for yourself or do without and die.

From Eric Partridge, "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases":
Fend for yourself and earn your own living--or take the (dire) consequences: US: C19-20. . . . [Partridge cites several early uses of the phrase, including this:] The Dictionary of American English quotes the famous Davy Crockett as writing in 1834, 'We therefore determined to go on the old saying root, hog, or die', and an Iowa agricultural report pub'd in 1866 as stating, 'It has been a common practice with farmers . . . to turn . . . pigs . . . out into the woods or onto the prairies to get their own living'.