Where does the phrase “to acknowledge the corn” come from and What does it mean?

The purely American expression “to acknowledge the corn” means to admit the losing of an argument, especially in regard to a detail; to retract; to admit defeat.

It is somewhat over a hundred years old, one account of its origin giving it the date of 1828.

In this account, plausible, though unverified, a member of Congress, Andrew Stewart, is said to have stated in a speech that haystacks and cornfields were sent by Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky to Philadelphia and New York.

Charles A. Wickliffe, member from Kentucky, questioned the statement, allowing that haystacks and cornfields could not walk. Stewart then pointed out that he did not mean literal haystacks and cornfields, but the horses, mules, and hogs for which the hay and corn were raised. Wickliffe then rose to his feet, it is said, and drawled, “Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the corn.”

The other account carries no date, but takes us to New Orleans where an upriver countryman is alleged to have fallen among cardsharps.

Before the evening was over the farmer had lost not only his purse, but the two barges of produce, one of corn and one of potatoes, which he had brought to market. But in the morning when he went to the river, possibly intending to deny his losses, he found that the barge loaded with corn had sunk during the night and, of course, was now worthless.

So when his creditor arrived, demanding he rum over both potatoes and corn, he said, “I acknowledge the corn, but, by golly, you shan’t get the potatoes.”

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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