Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Word of the day: hogwash

As found in Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley (1849). Hortense, indignant, reports what Sara said about the choucroute. Go ahead, Hortense:

“That barrel we have in the cellar — delightfully prepared by my own hands — she termed a tub of hog-wash, which means food for pigs.”
Yes, it does, or did.

The Oxford English Dictionary: “kitchen refuse and scraps (esp. in liquid form) used as food for pigs; pigswill. Now chiefly historical.“ The dictionary’s first citation is from circa 1450. Its most helpful citation is the most recent one, from Judith Flanders’s The Victorian House (2004):
Cooks who were not thrifty put all the kitchen leavings into a bucket. The content was called “wash,” and the washman visited regularly to buy it: he then sold it as “hog-wash,” or pigswill.
By 1610 the word acquired a “depreciative” meaning: “any liquid for drinking that is of very poor quality, as cheap beer, wine, etc.” I like this citation, From Thomas Boyd’s Through the Wheat (1923):
“Wine? You call that red hog-wash wine?”
And later, a third colloquial meaning originated in the United States: “nonsense; esp. worthless, ridiculous, or nonsensical ideas, discourse, or writing.” The dictionary’s first citation is from Mark Twain, writing in The Galaxy (1870):
I will remark, in the way of general information, that in California, that land of felicitous nomenclature, the literary name of this sort of stuff is “hogwash.”
In OED citations, it’s sometimes hogwash, sometimes hog-wash. In our time, the hyphenless form is vastly more frequent. As perhaps is hogwash itself.

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