Pot Licker

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21 comments on this post.
  1. Yael:

    Hmph, it appears my attempt to use Hebrew letters in the above comment had produced only a row of question-marks. Good thing I added a transliteration of sorts, then.

  2. Yael:

    Being a Hebrew-speaker (natively), this phrase immediately rang a bell for me; we have a very similar phrase, ‘???????? ?????????’ (since I can hardly attempt proper IPA transliteration, the approximate ‘melahech pinkah’ would have to do). According to some etymological sources I just looked up, it has originated in the Talmud, in Aramaic, and probably meant a glutton, but later (and today) came to mean a lowly sycophant, just as you describe. I wonder if the way in which this phrase came into English has at some point passed through Jewish sources?

  3. danthelawyer:

    Could it not also be related to “pot liquor”? See http://bit.ly/Eg8Rz

  4. beebee:

    The Laramie Potlickers are a group of folks in Wyoming who have weekly potlucks.

  5. Donnie:

    Down on the Texas gulf coast we call people who rush in to fish next to you after catching a fish pot lickers.

  6. Frank Knapp:

    My Father use to call someone he was mad at a `Pot Licker` Meaning someone that licked a bed pan! The first I heard him use said insult was back in the 1940!s. Who know`s; Maybe he got it wrong????

  7. HytonedSOB:

    Have you ever heard the expression ` He doesn`t have a pot to piss in`? That is the pot they are talking about1

  8. jimmy:

    pot licker –where i was raised in the mountains of tennessee the liquid in a pot of mustard / turnip greens was called pot licker , really good stuff

  9. Joe Bob:

    Potlicker is most certainly a subservient person, perhaps worse than the yes man. A scavenging idealess man, giving not ideas or action. That is the history of the term. Now, it can almost hold even with the terms “bitch” or “nigger” in their duality of insult and affection. Potlicker may gain ground in the coming years as a hipster badge of adoration and loyalty. We shall see.

  10. Olivia B:

    I once read the term ‘pot licker’ in a poem about a Pakistani wedding, of all things. In this case, a ‘pot licker’ was said to be a woman who ‘brought on the rain’. I have no idea if this was symbolic… perhaps meaning somebody who caused misery? Or maybe it literally meant somebody who made it rain. I don’t know.

  11. Larry t.:

    The term “potlicker” as told to me by my dad was used in Kentucky and my native Indiana as someone who “licked the slop jar”. Slop jar being the jar used during the night to avoid having to go all the way to the outhouse.

  12. Katherine:

    The Southern term is “potlikker” it refers to the liquid left after cooking collard greens.

  13. Ryan:

    After reading everyone’s responses, I’m going to assume that like many slang terms, “Potlicker” has been adapted to have several slightly different (but similar) meanings, depending on your location…

    When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, my grandpa used to use it all the time – I have since adopted it as my alltime favorite insult and have regularly used it for 25 years…

    As a kid, when I asked my grandpa about it, he said that during the depression, there were people who were so poor and so hungry that they would knock on peoples doors at dinnertime and beg to “lick the pots” just to get a little bit of food to eat, so although slightly different, it ultimately has a meaning very similar to the ones discussed here – Basically a potlicker is a “bum”.

    I had never heard it from anyone else, anywhere, until I heard it in Talledega Nights. As soon as that movie came out, all my friends texted me and said they “stole” my word haha.

  14. Ted Deegan:

    when I was young a retired railroad man told me after being kicked out of the kitchen by his wife for using the word what it mend. “Calvin what does potlicker mean?” I asked. and he said, “Now the women folk won’t like me telling you this, so don’t go telling them I told you . See a potlicker is a person who lick bed pots. ” “A bed pot?” “A bed pot is what in the old day we kept under the bed to pee in so you won’t have to go out to the outhouse in the middle of the night .”

    Also heard it use for the begger in the depression era. BUT I USE THE TERM AS CALVIN DID, DAMN POTLICKERS.

  15. D H:

    Growing up in the 50’s & 60’s my dad called me that all the time but only when I was being impetuous; and he always had a big smile on his face when saying it.

  16. Annie:

    That was basically the connotation in our family. My grandmother (b. 1895) used it to describe the worst people she knew…it was for her the absolute worst insult to level upon someone. And for her family, it was one who re-used the spit out tobacco in the spittoons. (She was a French-Canadian immigrant to Michigan.)

    My dad used the term very frequently when he got mad at drivers on the road, and we kids got such a kick out of it that we began using it commonly.

    Since he passed away, we use it as a term of affection and call our kids little pot lickers just to keep the phrase alive.

  17. Dave:

    The older men I knew, during my Ozarks blue-collar upbringing in the 50s, used “potlicker” as a term of derision for dogs that had no spirit, no self-respect and would not hunt. (It was applied to humans who would not work and had no principles.) It was often conjoined with “biscuit-eatin'”, a term referring to a dog so lost to good conduct that it would steal biscuits off the table and eat them when its master’s back was turned. Similarly, “egg-suckin'” was a dog that would raid the henhouse it was sworn to protect from varmints and eat the fresh eggs before the farm wife collected them. To be called all three usually meant a canine had done something really, really bad.

  18. Patrick:

    Both spellings are correct. It’s just the remaing liquid after cooking greens in large amounts, even spinach and agrugula have potlikker, usually has ham hocks or some kind of seasoning in it as well. At the restaurant I cook at in TX we spell it pot licker, but I’ve seen potlikker at previous establishments.

  19. Mark:

    grandma didnt like me much!!

  20. Dave:

    My Dad, a railroader, used it all the time, but not in reference to people. The nail that bent, the bolt that rolled under the tractor, the shim that snapped when you drove it in, were all pot lickers.

  21. Anonymous:

    My father-in-law would call the grandchildren pot lickers when they were horsing around but had a smile on his face when he said it and would give them a big hug. I can’t imagine him ever saying anything bad to them or calling them anything that was derogatory.

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