What is hogwash — actual hogwash, not figurative hogwash? I took an informal poll and found that most people didn’t know and thought it had something to do with cleaning pigs.

Hogwash is not to be confused with, say, buttermilk, which in the beloved E.B. White book Charlotte’s Web was used to clean the pig Wilbur before his trip to the fair. That would imply something palatable just put to an unsavory use.

wilbur hogwash

What is actual hogwash, then?

Actual hogwash, on the other hand, is liquefied garbage, kitchen refuse, slop, swill (the “wash”) fed to hogs.


actual hogwash

To be clear, hogwash is putrefied waste generated by people and given as sustenance to unsuspecting pigs. It was banned by the European Union in 2003 out of suspicion hogwash was responsible for the foot-and-mouth crisis.

What prompted me to look up the term was this: The News & Observer editorialized in favor of more than doubling the minimum wage from $7.25/hour all the way to $15/hour because that “lifts everyone.” As an economist, I was inclined to call that hogwash.

As a former editor keenly concerned about word choice, I wanted to know if that would be apt. I wouldn’t want to whitewash, as it were, the hideous Progressive racism behind the minimum wage by making it seem like buttermilk. I wanted to know if hogwash would be a fair description.

It is.

See how by reading about the reality and history of the minimum wage in my most recent newsletter, entitled “The News & Observer’s cruel plan for the poor.”