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Where’d that phrase come from #57 (The Mississippi River edition)

Created date

August 15th, 2013

Barge in

In the early days of navigating the Mississippi River before the advent of steam power, freight barges could only travel down river powered by the current. These flimsily tied together rafts were notoriously unreliable and difficult to control, frequently smashing into other vessels, piers, or the shoreline; hence, our modern usage of barging in on someone. Next time you come into my office, please knock. Don t just barge in.


One of the sundry goods that made its way along the Mississippi River on a daily basis was livestock, and more specifically, hogs. The only problem was that riverboat passengers often complained about the cargo s horrible stench, so the crew would wash the hogs before herding them on board. The disgusting water left behind became known as hogwash, a term that today, refers to supposedly factual accounts that are worth about as much as the wastewater from a pig s bath. Joe swears that he s seen a ghost in this house, but I think that s a load of hogwash.


Today, when you travel aboard a luxury ocean liner, you don t sleep in a cabin but rather a stateroom. The name actually comes from the early days of steamboat travel, when cabins were given state names instead of numbers to make them sound more luxurious. For example, cabin one might have been Delaware, cabin two, Maryland, and so on. Though the practice of naming rooms after states ultimately waned, the term stateroom stuck. The first class staterooms on board theTitanicwere the most luxurious of the day.


Following the Civil War, steamboat companies along the Mississippi found themselves competing with the booming railroad industry, and things weren t looking good. They needed an edge. The answer: a fleet of boats so decadent in design and accommodations that they became known as showboats. In fact, these boats were so over-the-top extravagant that the term showboat eventually came to refer to people that behaved in a showy, flamboyant manner. My wife thinks that we are now wealthy enough to drive a Rolls Royce, but I don t want to showboat around the neighborhood.