Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pigs and Politics II: The Pork Barrel

While most of the talk this presidential election cycle has been about "earmarks" (itself a term related to agriculture in that an "earmark" is made to show ownership of cattle, pigs and sheep), what's really being argued over is traditional "pork barrel" politics. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the modern sense of the term--spending used to benefit constituents of a given politician in return for votes or campaign contributions--to the 1870s, when references to "pork" were common in Congress. It cites the Defiance (Ohio) Democrat in 1873 for first referring to the "many previous visits to the public pork-barrel." The term is decidedly American in origin.

Today's photo (found on Flickr) was taken by Bill Barber at Yorktown and depicts soldiers' rations: salt pork, beans, and hard tack. It's amazingly difficult to find a photo of an actual barrel of pork, as that means of preservation which led to so much interesting language ("scraping the bottom of the barrel" and so on) has long disappeared.

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