In tall cotton and in high cotton

  • In tall cotton and in high cotton are two versions of an idiom. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words, or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, in the same boat, bite the bullet, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idioms in tall cotton and in high cotton, where they came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.


    In tall cotton and in high cotton describes someone who is successful, someone who has worked hard and is reaping the rewards, someone who has situated himself for success. The phrases in tall cotton and in high cotton originated in the American South, where cotton was an important cash crop. When a cotton plant is tall or high, it is fully grown and robustly developed, ready to pick. Though the idioms in tall cotton and in high cotton have been in use since the turn of the twentieth century, they only became widely popular when Red Barber used them in the mid-twentieth century. Red Barber was a baseball announcer from Mississippi who was famous for using colorful idioms like walking in tall cotton, tearing up the pea patch, and slicker than boiled okra.



    People were travelling in tall cotton until June of 1929 when a flood washed away the approached to the bridge. (The Baytown Sun)

    “I can remember running that backhoe for $50 an hour and thinking I was in tall cotton,” he says. (Equipment World Magazine)

    In the meantime, Lexus is in high cotton and Toyota just built a sub-$40,000 big car that can run with Europe’s best GT sedans at half the price. (The Texarkana Gazette)

    Regardless, Friday’s winner will be in high cotton — at least for a week or two — when it comes to having the early advantage on the rest of the district. (The Kingsport Times-News)

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