Where does the idiom “to go hog wild” come from and What does it mean?

The expression “to go hog wild” means to become highly enthusiastic; especially, to become wildly excited, as hogs become when aroused; to run around like a chicken with its head cut off; hence, to become very angry, to get all het up; also, to become profligate, to spend money like a drunken sailor.

Both of my parents were born and reared in agricultural communities, and I am almost certain that this Americanism was familiar to each of them in all its senses.

If so, that would take it back to the 1850’s or 1860’s. I am sure, however, that it was a familiar colloquialism to them in my early childhood, as I have known and used it all my life in each of its varied meanings.

Nevertheless, the earliest printed date takes it back only to 1904, to a definition that appeared in Dialect Notes, with the single example: “I never saw such an excitement over a little thing in Arkansas as there was over that debate. They went hog wild.”

Perhaps some reader can cite an instance of earlier usage in print.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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