Late Pass: ‘Pork’

“Pork” seems to be a favorite word among right and left politicians alike. I always assumed it was a reference to waste or spending that was ultimately unhealthful.

Not so, according to NPR Political Junkie:

Pork is short for pork barrel. Wordsmith William Safire said it began before the Civil War, likening lawmakers plundering budget funds with slaves rushing a barrel of salt pork put out by the master.

Damn. Can the people who get riled up about folks who use the phrase ‘tar baby‘ redirect their attention to ‘pork barrel’ now?

8 thoughts on “Late Pass: ‘Pork’

  1. ladyfresshh March 13, 2009 at 3:12 pm Reply


  2. PPR_Scribe March 13, 2009 at 5:47 pm Reply

    Oh my! I never knew the origins of that phrase before now. Thanks. (I think…)

  3. Winslowalrob March 14, 2009 at 1:07 am Reply

    Oh, I thought ‘pork’ was a reference to the liberuhl muslim jihadists who control Washington, the Illuminati, and the Council on Foreign Relations and their disdain for the white meat :). I dunno, should I be pissed about how much it gets bandied about, or that no one knows its etymology? Has it migrated to “black thang” territory already?

    • Winslowalrob March 14, 2009 at 12:54 pm Reply

      PS I may have made my comments sound snarkier than I intended… and because I did not know where to post this, check out this link about drug decriminalization

      • shani-o March 14, 2009 at 8:27 pm Reply

        It’s all good. Yeah, I’m over collective racial outrage over stupid stuff that doesn’t matter, but I find it interesting that a phrase that actually has roots in slavery and racism gets no notice. And thanks for the link.

        • Winslowalrob March 14, 2009 at 10:05 pm Reply

          I think this is reflective of the lack of collective education/curiosity. Maybe it was because I was forced to do it, but I kind of like looking at the history of words and language… oh christ that was dorky. Also, I kind of knew about ‘pork’ from my 10th grade government class, which beat me over the head with government jargon (gerrymandering! pork barrel spending! filibuster!) as well as their corresponding interesting-as-hell histories. Still, I wish people did discuss these sorts of histories, not because I think we need a new political vocabulary in terms of racist language, but that it will help us think about individual sensitivity. Yeah, utopian, I know. That is not to say that our current vocabulary should NOT be changed, there should be space to discuss whether ‘pork’ should be scrapped altogether even if I do not particularly think so. We also have to realize that the meaning and connotations of language change with time (The word ‘Yankee’ as a rather virulent jeer used by the British being transformed into a source of pride is an example… unless you are an anglo in Latin America and people start callin you yanqui as an insult, but I digress). Keep in mind that I am REALLY hard to offend, so I probably should never be involved in discussions about whether something is offensive or not.

          And to BigWord, is there any problem that pickled meat cannot solve?

  4. Big Word March 14, 2009 at 1:17 pm Reply

    Pickled meat started all this? I can believe it. That stuff works miracles in a pot of grandma’s red beans.

  5. jiovanni March 15, 2009 at 7:30 pm Reply

    This is interesting. Thanks for sharing. I like learning something new. I’m going to have to check out that website.

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