August 27, 2010 7:02 PM   Subscribe

Word origin = piggyback?

Ever seen or heard of pigs riding on each others backs? I have not. Maybe you've spent time on a farm and can anecdotally confirm this? Anyway, with this in mind, why IS it called "piggyback"? Wouldn't "monkeyback" be more logical?
What is or what would you speculate the origin of this word is?
posted by No Shmoobles to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
pick-a-pack, pickaback, piggyback
posted by nadawi at 7:08 PM on August 27, 2010

Etymology Online is always a good place to check.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:24 PM on August 27, 2010

Here is a longer etymology from the OED:

"[Origin and original form uncertain; the expression has clearly been analysed in many varying ways from a very early date. Perhaps a combination of PACK n.1 and PICK v.2 (i.e. ‘a pack pitched (on the back or shoulders)’, as suggested by the forms), or perhaps of BACK n.1 and PICK v.2 (i.e. ‘pitched on the back or shoulders’, as suggested by the forms). The forms, which are first attested considerably later, apparently show alteration by folk etymology, after PIG n.1 and PIGGY n.1 The function (and identity) of the preposition found in many of the early forms is unclear; it probably shows ON prep., A prep.1 (although if so the precise meaning is unclear), as probably does also the medial syllable in forms such as a pick-a-pack, pick-a-pack. Influence of French à pic ‘vertically, perpendicularly’ (see A-PEAK adv.) has also been suggested. The development of the phrase has doubtless been influenced by internal rhyme, and it may be that all of the attested forms reflect a reduplicated form of an unattested original.
Perhaps compare German huckepack on the back and shoulders of another person, animal, etc. (18th cent.; also huckeback; < hucken to carry a load on one's back + German regional (Low German)Bak BACK n.1).]"

They have a lot of quotations using pick-back, or pick-a-back, but the earliest pig-back on is from 1825.
posted by apricot at 7:56 AM on August 28, 2010

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