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Why a horse in "so hungry I could eat a horse"?
November 19, 2006 6:41 AM   Subscribe

Does "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse" mean "I'm so hungry I could eat at much meat as is on a horse's bones (without getting full)" or "I'm so hungry I'd be willing to eat something as (presumably) unappetizing as horse meat"?

Basically, does the horse signify a great amount of food, or a disgusting quality of food?
posted by 23skidoo to Writing & Language (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Great amount of food
posted by puffin at 6:42 AM on November 19, 2006


Yup. Great amount of food... and there is nothing disgusting about it.

Raw horse meat is delicious. Seriously. If you are ever in Japan (particularly the island of Kyushu but you can get "basashi" in most major cities) you have got to try it out.

Yummy.
posted by cup at 6:50 AM on November 19, 2006


I always thought it was a combination of the three things...
Great quantity, slightly unappetizing meat (if only because it's taboo), but also that horses have a lot of value outside of their meat, so you'd have to be *really* hungry to eat a horse.
posted by cosmonaught at 6:56 AM on November 19, 2006


Great amount of food.

Around these parts it's also quite common to hear "I'm so hungry I could eat a scabby dog."
posted by afx237vi at 6:59 AM on November 19, 2006


Good point about the value aspect of the horse, cosmonaught.

If I were, say, traveling through the Andes by horse, my transportation would be the last thing I would eat.

Of course, if the horse broke a leg and I had to put it out of its misery, then I would not let the meat go to waste. :)
posted by cup at 7:00 AM on November 19, 2006


I had a horse schnitzel in Switzerland, tasted fine. I thought it was beef or pork at the time. Horse as a food for humans was only outlawed in NY during my childhood. The only "gross" thing about it is that we aren't used to thinking of horses as food. I think the saying started as purely one of amount, "I could eat an entire horse".
posted by Cranialtorque at 7:28 AM on November 19, 2006


afx237vi: you kinda contradicted yourself... a scabby dog is a great quantity of food?

when I say it, I'm referencing quantity.
posted by trinarian at 7:41 AM on November 19, 2006


I always assumed it meant an actual horse. I.E., you're THAT hungry you'd eat a horse. Which is a remote prospect for most in the United States, where horse is rarely, if ever, on the menu. So its more about the desperation of hunger, rather than the amount of food one wants to consume. I.E. you're starving.
posted by Atreides at 7:59 AM on November 19, 2006


It means you're so damn hungry you could eat a large large quantity of food. As in a big animal like a horse.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 8:02 AM on November 19, 2006


I agree with Atreides. It is a very old expresssion from the time where horses were NOT eaten. It just means you are so hungry you would eat most anything, including a horse.
posted by JayRwv at 8:07 AM on November 19, 2006


afx237vi: you kinda contradicted yourself... a scabby dog is a great quantity of food?

Sorry, that wasn't clear. I meant to say I hear different variations of the saying, with some (the horse) meaning "I'm so hungry I could eat a huge amount of food", and others (scabby dog) meaning "I'm so hungry I could eat a really gross thing".
posted by afx237vi at 8:12 AM on November 19, 2006


My highschool spanish teacher told us that the similar expression in spanish was "so hungry I could eat a bull" (can any spanish-speakers confirm that? I think she learned in Spain, not Central/South America). Although a bull is also huge, she had explained that it was because a bull is so tough and unappetizing that it was an appropriate hyperbole.
posted by twoporedomain at 8:35 AM on November 19, 2006


twoporedomain:

Just asked the Spanish girlfriend, and here (in Valencia at least) it's "so hungry you could eat a horse [or possibly cow]", and "going like a bull [in a rush]". She concedes there could be regional differences though.
posted by claudius at 9:07 AM on November 19, 2006


In the Jack Nicholson movie Goin' South, one line that is most memorable to me is when a very old man says, "I'm so hungry I could eat a frozen dog!"
posted by The Deej at 10:26 AM on November 19, 2006


Quantity.
posted by languagehat at 10:33 AM on November 19, 2006


I think it might also have something to do with alliteration. The mere fact that hungry and horse sound partially alike might be where the phrase derives from.
posted by cusack at 10:46 AM on November 19, 2006


I always took it to mean 'I'm so hungry I don't care what I eat, as long as there's a lot of it.' So, a little bit of both I think.

If it was purely quantity, why not just say cow? There's (presumably) more meat on a cow.
posted by Robot Rowboat at 11:44 AM on November 19, 2006


probably a step on a continum of hunger,

-i'm so hungry i'd eat these stale biscuits
-i'm so hungry i'd eat the bug on the stale biscuits
-i'm so hungy i'd eat the bag the biscuits were in
-i'm so hungry i'd eat the burrow that was carrying the biscuits
-i'm so hungry i'd eat the horse i was riding on
-i'm so hungry i'd eat the horse my friend Bob and i were riding on
-i'm so hungry i'd eat Bob.
-phew, made it to food, outpost, etc...too bad about Bob.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:06 PM on November 19, 2006


I suspect the saying refers to both the quantity of meat on a horse and the social taboo (at least in the United States) associated with equine consumption.

I was in Italy this summer and found that horse was often on the menu at local restaurants. When my friends ordered it I was was, initially, taken aback. But then I realized how absurd it was to be comfortable with beef, pork and venison but not horsemeat. So I gladly dug into some shredded horse on crusty bread. Perfectly good stuff, if a bit gamey.
posted by aladfar at 2:03 PM on November 19, 2006


I thought it was both the amount and the undesirable nature of the meat.

Oh, and I've read that an Old Ontario variation on this expression is "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse and chase the rider".
posted by orange swan at 2:13 PM on November 19, 2006


I'll throw in a curve ball. I contend that the phrase, "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse" gained is popularity from the history of those on long journeys as a last resort, actually eating the horse that they needed for travel in order to survive periods of starvation. I think its origin therefore, probably had less to do with the size, or the social taboo of eating horse, but the idea that eating horse has been, historically, a signal of last resort before starvation.

In order to back up my own argument, I provide you with this awesome google search.
posted by allthewhile at 2:35 PM on November 19, 2006


I always took it to mean a great amount of food.
posted by SisterHavana at 3:33 PM on November 19, 2006


I will jump on the horse drawn bandwagon by saying that I'm certain it refers to quantity. There's a lot of eating on a horse, and I'm pretty sure horse would have been on the menu a lot more in times gone by.
posted by tomble at 5:28 PM on November 19, 2006



Lots of food. Many countries use the same expression, but horse meat is as normal as buying ham for your sandwich. It is peculiar that some countries can't eat horse.. but then, I do have issues when the locals here it insects...
posted by lundman at 7:24 PM on November 19, 2006


.. always preview... sigh..
posted by lundman at 7:24 PM on November 19, 2006


I use it to mean both (a lot of food I wouldn't normally eat).

The mister is fond of saying he's hungry enough to eat the asshole out of a snake.
posted by deborah at 9:54 AM on November 20, 2006


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