Eating bacon is not just great, but talking about it is too. And one of my favourite expressions – I hope it’s yours, too – is the phrase, “bring home the bacon.” The phrase means to bring home the goods, to get what is required, to be the hero. (Sounds like bacon to me!) But like so many things in life, we use these expressions without having any idea where they come from. It certainly stumped me. Since I love anything bacon-related, I have studied the matter deeply and have found out the origin to this expression.
Not for fidelity
First of all, here’s what everyone thinks it’s from. There’s been a folk origin for the word floating around the Internet for some time now. It tells of the Dunmow Flitch, a tradition in Dunmow, a town in England. The Dunmow Flitch is given every four years to a couple who impresses the town through the strength of their fidelity to one another. And what is the Flitch? As this is a bacon blog, you can correctly assume that it is a delicious side of bacon.
Since this Flitch-business has been going on since at least Chaucer’s day, it would seem reasonable to assume that this is where the term came from. Unfortunately, it is not true. First of all, the meanings don’t line up – “Bring home the bacon” means to bring home the right goods to a loved one and the flitch is a prize for fidelity. Not really the same thing. As well, historians point out that bacon has always been a particularly valued prize for a lot of different events (yum!) throughout the years. And they also like to argue that the phrase has only been in popular use since about the middle of the last century. Therefore, it can’t be much older than that.
A fighting chance
So where did it come from? No one is really sure, but a better guess is from the world of boxing. Boxing has always been a slangy sport – “blow-by-blow” and “hit below the belt” and a whole bunch of other slang terms come from boxing. But this phrase, according to the folks at the Phrase Finder, came about in a sort of strange way – from a mother telling her son boxer to win. Joe Gans’s mother sent him a telegram urging him on: “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.” Joe did win the fight, and he telegrammed back that he was not only going to bring home the bacon, but also the “gravy.” (Not a usual food to eat with bacon, but now that I think about it…)
That was in about 1906, and it was printed in the New York Times. A few months later, a paper on the West Coast also used the expression in an article. It must have already become, at that time, an expression in the boxing world. From there, it spread everywhere, and became the beloved phrase we all use. If you need any proof of its popularity, just type it into Google and see.
It’s even been popular for musicians. Here’s a song by Procol Harum called “Bringing Home the Bacon”:
Yeah. We don’t know what it’s about, either.
That’s where “bring home the bacon” comes from. Are there any other bacon-related points or facts you’d like the Republic of Bacon to research for you? Where do you think the phrase came from?
Image by arwriterphotog