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Root hog, or die

Posted by ESC on January 05, 2003

In Reply to: Root hog, or die posted by masakim on January 05, 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'.

: : ROOT, HOG OR DIE - root (v.) Root, hog, or die. Recorded distribution: U.S. Informant's comment: This is the refrain of the folk song 'The Bull-Wackers Epic.' First citation: U.S. 1834 Crockett, 'Life of David Crockett, 20 century colloquial: (cited sources) T&W 184, Stevenson 1147:9 Whiting (MP) 310. See also: Never ring a pig that has to root for a living. (As in ring through a pig's nose, preventing him from rooting.) From "A Dictionary of American Proverbs" edited by Wolfgang Mieder & Others (Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 1992).

: Oh, I went to Californy in the spring of Seventy-six,
: Oh, when I landed there I wuz in a terrible fix.
: I didn't have no money my victuals for to buy,
: And the only thing for me was to root, hog, or die.