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Why would you go the whole hog

00:00 Mon 26th Feb 2001 |

By Hermione Gray

Why would you go the whole hog
...asks J Arnold. The phrase, 'To go the whole hog' means to do something thoroughly and completely, so it would certainly get the job done.

What's a hog got to do with it
It's not entirely certain why a hog, or where it originates, but the Oxford Dictionary of Idioms claims that it's got something to do with a fable in Cowper's The Love of the World: Hypocrisy Detected (1779).

Come again
The story goes something like this...Muslims are forbidden by their religion to eat pork, but some who fancied a nibble claimed that Muhammad had only meant that they weren't to eat a certain part of the animal. Unfortunately, they couldn't decide which part that should be.

How did they get around that, then
Well, each ate a piece of the hog which, according to his conscience, was absolutely not the forbidden piece. And between them, they ate the whole hog.

Is that the only use of the phrase
No, the ODI also notes that this was recorded as a political expression in America in the early 19th century, and that as far back as 1835 a source claimed that it originated in Virginia where it marked a democrat from a federalist.

Which one was the hog
Now, now. There's no reason to believe that hog was a pejorative term. A popular North American term, to 'live high on the hog' means to live in luxury, so hogs are good!

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