The Real Reason No One’s Living High on the Hog

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If you want to live high on the hog, this is how it’s gonna have to be.

Living high on the hog-where does that saying even come from? What’s so piggy about living the good life?

As it turns out, the phrase is incredibly literal: The meat higher up on the pig-back, upper legs-supplies the cuts traditionally considered the best. Knuckles, jowls and feet? Grody.

So, while the rich ate “higher up on the hog,” schmucks like us were left gnawing metatarsals-all of which gave the saying its metaphorical meaning of extravagant living.

Funny thing though: These days eating low on the hog actually costs MORE than eating high on the hog.


Since the phrase first appeared in the ’20s, Americans have developed a serious taste for bacon, which in the U.S. comes from down low (the belly). Demand is so strong that it costs twice as much as ham, which comes from up high.

Aka, you’re paying 71% more for bacon than you did 10 years ago. Who’s the schmuck NOW?

Oops, still you. That was awkward.

To recap: Living low on the hog is the new high on the hog. And/or it’s literally and metaphorically impossible.

So, just to cover your bases, make sure to bring home the bacon.

How Do We Know All This? Cuz we’re brilliant. Also:
The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Fourth Edition, had the deets on the origin of “high on the hog.”
The Dictionary of American Regional English added some color.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks average retail prices for food, including sliced bacon and ham, all the way back to 1980. I know, right?
Check out this crazy 1920 reference to high-hog livin’ endangering the U.S. economy (from the New York Times).

-Rachel Globus, Serious Coin Contributor

Photo credit: John Pratt/Keystone Features/Getty Images

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