Don’t bring home the bacon

by Christie on December 26, 2018 at 10:00am


The Independent in the UK shows how Britain is so far ahead of us here in New Zealand. It seems that expressions like ‘bringing home the bacon’ are offensive… yes. You read that right. quote.

You may think phrases like “bringing home the bacon” and “putting all your eggs in one basket” are harmless quirks of the English language, but they could be offending vegans and vegetarians, with one academic claiming they might end up being avoided altogether as a result.

As research shows more people are removing animal products from their diets than ever before, Shareena Hamzah of Swansea University says idioms involving animal products could be rendered obsolete because they are out of touch with the zeitgeist. end quote.

Or offending Muslims, perhaps, Shareena? quote.

Writing for The Conversation, the researcher explains how meat-based metaphors are a popular staple of our everyday vernacular but that an increased awareness in the environmental and ethical issues surrounding meat production “will undoubtedly be reflected in our language and literature” and that this language may no longer be so widely accepted. end quote.

This article is about absolutely nothing. It is saying that people might stop using these expressions because fewer people eat meat. Most of us don’t even think about offending vegetarians, or Muslims, when we use expressions such as ‘bringing home the bacon’, because there is nothing offensive in them. The vegetarians that I know seem to cope quite well with a few expressions here and there. Not all vegetarians are snowflakes. They simply choose not to eat meat, for reasons of their own. quote.

“In today’s reality, meat is repeatedly the subject of much socially and politically charged discussion, including about how the demand for meat is contributing to climate change and environmental degradation,” she continues.

“Given that fiction often reflects on real world events and societal issues, it may very well be that down the line powerful meat metaphors are eschewed. end quote.

Let’s think of some other powerful metaphors still in use, shall we?

‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’ – how offensive to trees

‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ – why Romans? Why not Somalis?

‘Never look a gift horse in the mouth’ – offensive to horses. Neigh!

‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’ – offensive to non vegans

‘Beggars cannot be choosers’ – offensive to our homeless people

You can see how stupid this is, can’t you?

Also, I keep thinking of the song ‘Ring a Ring of Roses’. This is not quite the same thing, I know, but it is believed to be a reference to the Great Plague of London in the 17th century. And ‘bring home the bacon’ has a historical reference as well. The Phrase Finder has all the details quote.

The origin of the phrase ‘bring home the bacon’ is sometimes suggested to be the story of the Dunmow Flitch. This tradition, which still continues every four years in Great Dunmow, Essex, is based on the story of a local couple who, in 1104, impressed the Prior of Little Dunmow with their marital devotion to the point that he awarded them a flitch [a side] of bacon. The continuing ritual of couples showing their devotion and winning the prize, to considerable acclamation by the local populace, is certainly old and well authenticated. Geoffrey Chaucer mentions it in The Wife of Bath’s Tale and Prologue, circa 1395.

An additional invented explanation that links ‘bringing home the bacon’ with the culinary habits of medieval English peasantry is given in the nonsense email ‘Life in the 1500s‘. That, and all the other supposed derivations above, ignores the fact that ‘bring home the bacon’ is a 20th century phrase that was coined in the USA.

One field of endeavour in which one’s body, that is, bacon, is the key to one’s fortune is boxing, and it is in that sport that the expression first became widely used.

Bring home the baconJoe Gans and ‘Battling’ Oliver Nelson fought for the widely reported world lightweight championship on 3rd September 1906. In coverage of the fight, the New York newspaper The Post-Standard, 4th September 1906, reported that:

Before the fight Gans received a telegram from his mother: “Joe, the eyes of the world are on you. Everybody says you ought to win. Peter Jackson will tell me the news and you bring home the bacon.”

Gans (on the right in the picture) won the fight, and The New York Times printed a story saying that he had replied by telegraph that he “had not only the bacon, but the gravy”, and that he later sent his mother a cheque for $6,000. end quote.

Oh dear. The American origins are one of the few positive references to African Americans in the period before World War 2. Do we really want to dispose of a reference to the history of African Americans?

If it was just yet another piece of European history, it wouldn’t matter in the least of course. We are disposing of those by the day. But who do we support the most? Vegans or African Americans? What a dilemma!

A lot of vegans are white people. The black guys will win out every time.

Which means, as soon as everyone knows the origins of the expression, ‘bringing home the bacon,’ it will be perfectly fine. Even to vegans. They might even start eating it. The plant version, of course.