Words out of the outback

Boondocks

Today we may think of the boondocks as grass-roots America; in fact, the word comes from the Philippines.

During World War II, United States forces came into contact with the volcanic mountains of the archipelago. The regions around them were often inaccessible, and came to be known as "out back," implying primitiveness and impassable terrain.

The Philippine troops were mainly guerrillas, based in the remotest areas including the bundok, the Tagalog word for "mountain." But what the US servicemen heard was "boondock," and when they returned home, they extended its meaning to include any rough and wild back country from mountain to swamp.

Nowadays, we often hear its shortened version "boonies," and when you are out in them, you are indeed far away from everything.

High on the hog

If you are dining well, chances are you are eating high on the hog. Years ago, when farms were plentiful and largely self-sufficient, most families had a pig or two. Every part of the pig was useful, including its knuckles and feet. But the best cuts of meat were further up - high on the hog. The hams, chops, bacon, tenderloin, and spare ribs resided there. By extension, living high on the hog came to mean living prosperously.

SOURCES: 'The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins,' by Robert Hendrickson; 'Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins,' by W. and M. Morris.

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