What Does “Bring Home The Bacon” Mean? How To Use It

what does bring home the bacon mean

Idioms are widely used in English. In this article, we will talk about the phrase “bring home the bacon.” When you first hear this phrase, you might be picturing a person taking a bag of bacon home. But its meaning is not quite there.

Bringing home the bacon means earning money needed to support a home’s basic expenses. This phrase is also used to refer to being successful, and it’s making a lot of money. This is an informal phrase that can be used in British and American English.

Keep on reading to learn more about this phrase, its origins, and some example sentences. Also, we will see some other expressions that convey the same idea.

Origin Of The Phrase

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Etymologists are not sure how bacon is related to money. As it happens with most idioms, there are many stories that are believed to be related to their origins.

One source says the idiom originated in England back in the 10th century. The tale tells about a couple who loved each other greatly in Great Dunmow town, located in Essex county. The town mayor was so impressed with the marriage devotion that he awarded them a flitch of bacon.

The Flitch of bacon custom became a tradition for roughly eight centuries. In their first year of marriage, couples that declared they did not regret being married would be awarded a flitch of bacon.

Flitch of Bacon: is a piece of unsliced bacon.

Other people believe the idiom originated in the 1500s at country fairs. Catching a greased pig was one of the most popular contests in these types of shows. As you might be thinking, this was not an easy task to do. If you caught the pig, you got to keep it as a prize. So, if you won, you could have said you were to “bring home the bacon.”

Another story claims the origin of this phrase dates back to the 20th century. The story related to the idiom talks about Joe Gans an American professional boxer. The athlete received a telegram from his mother in 1906. She urged him to win a fight and “bring home the bacon.” Soon the phrase became popular and appeared in newspapers across the United States.

Other Meanings Of The Phrase

  • To go out and earn a living
  • To earn money for the family
  • As a means of success
  • Getting an accomplishment
  • Having a reward when you return home
  • Achieving something you set out to do

Explaining The Idea Behind “Bring Home The Bacon”

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To expand the idea around this idiom, we’ll first take a brief look at the history of bacon.

Origin Of The Word Bacon

Bacon means “back of an animal.” The term comes from the old German base bak-, and also from the English word back. Germanic bakkon passed into Frankish bako, which the French borrowed as bacon. In the twelfth century, the word started to be used in English as a synonym for the term flitch, “side of cured pig meat.”

A Look Into The History Of Bacon

Thousand years ago, it was known the Romans ate petaso, a dish made of pig meat boiled with figs. The boiled meat was later browned and seasoned.

The word “bacon” in modern English was used to describe all pork parts, not just bacon slices. Curing the bacon was fairly simple. That’s the main reason why it quickly became a choice of meat for all social classes.

Why Do You Love Bacon? The Answer Is Science

If you ever wondered why you love bacon, science can give you some answers.

It’s Something About The Way It Smells

Chemistry can explain why the bacon smell is so gratifying for humans and some animals. The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction that occurs between amino acids (protein) and sugars (carbs) when they are heated. This reaction gives bacon its distinctive flavor creating a particular aroma that makes your mouth water.

It’s Something About The Way It Taste

Why does it taste so good? You guessed it, chemistry can explain. The bacon fat breaks down when heated to become sweet, buttery, and salty. This reaction created the delicious taste of bacon.

Now, Bring It Home

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As you already know, bacon is a really popular meat product. Its popularity comes from the easy production process and how flavorful it can be after we cook it. We could assume almost every meat-eater loves bacon and wouldn’t mind receiving bacon as a gift.

The same thing can be said about money, and almost everybody likes money. It is the main reason why many adults go to work every day. Money moves the world, all of us need it to cover our expenses. If you are successful at work, get a promotion, or earn a bonus, it usually comes with a sweet feeling of being able to provide for one’s family. Just as sweet as eating bacon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is “Bringing Home The Bacon” Offensive?

The American rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also known as PETA, has proposed an amendment to this idiom. They suggest idioms like this one minimize animal cruelty. They urge people to use an alternative to the idiom “bring home the bagels.”

Some experts claim these observations about language could be harmful to PETA’s campaigns. Trying to manipulate the way people use language doesn’t help to raise consciousness about the real issues PETA tries to address.

Is “Bacon” Slang?

Bacon has been used as a slang term to refer to:

  • The body
  • A huge stack of cash

Example Sentences Using The Idiom

Here are some examples sentences using the idioms:

  1. As the head of the family, Taylor knows his job is to bring home the bacon.
  2. My neighbor always complains about her husband because she’s the one who brings home the bacon.
  3. The little girl works so hard. She practically brings home the bacon for her grandmother.
  4. Due to the world pandemic, Mr. Smith had lost his job, so now he was urging his son to go find a job so that he could bring home the bacon.
  5. In the past, every woman expected to marry a man that could bring home the bacon.
  6. Nowadays, women not only take care of the household but also bring home bacon.
  7. You can’t sit around all day. You’re the man of the house and the one who got to bring home the bacon.

Pop Culture References About The Idiom

In the book This Thing of Ours: Investigating the Sopranos, the author wrote the phrase “Tony brings home the bacon both literally and metaphorically.” American sitcom Family guy, released an episode named “Are you there, God? It’s Me, Peter,” where the idiom was used in the following dialogue “I work to bring home the bacon for this family, and all you can say is we don’t want bacon, we want actual money, well I don’t have money, I spent it all on bacon.” This dialogue seems to be mocking the idiom’s true meaning.

In 1979, a perfume commercial featuring Peggy Lee was released. Part of the lyrics said, “I can bring home the bacon,” while the actress showed off a thick wad of bills. In the following verse, the actress sings “fry it up in a pan” while she holds a frying pan in her hands. Making reference to the fact that she can work and be a housewife at the same time.

Synonyms And Other Similar Expressions

Here are some synonyms when “Bring home the bacon” is used to express earning money

  • Earn a living
  • Make a living
  • Take the cake
  • Provide
  • Keep a roof over your head
  • Put food on the table

Below a list of synonyms when the phrase is used to express someone is successful:

  • Set the world on fire
  • Make a name for oneself
  • Find a place in the sun
  • Do all right for oneself
  • Hit the jackpot
  • Make the big time

Other English Expressions Using Bacon

  • A good voice to beg bacon: used to mock someone’s irritating voice.
  • Language that could/would fry bacon: profane language
  • Save (one’s) bacon: prevent a disaster
  • Live like a maggot in bacon: living a comfortable and luxurious life.
  • Turkey bacon: an imitation of a police officer
  • What’s shakin’ (bacon)? Is a greeting similar to what’s going on?

Takeaways

“Bring home the bacon” is an expression just as popular as bacon itself. Its origins remain unclear, as it usually happens with many idiomatic expressions. The etymology of this phrase is believed to be based on two stories.

In a nutshell, the “bacon” we talk about here is not the meat product itself. We talk about the money needed to cover the basic needs of a family. “Bring home the bacon” could also refer to the person who goes out every day to work and provide.

This phrase is informal, and you should only use it when talking to family members or close friends. Idioms help us to express ideas in a colorful way, do not hesitate to expand your vocabulary by using them.

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By Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.