Saturday, September 24, 2022

What The African American Vernacular English Phrase "H.A.M" ("Going Ham") Means

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post presents some online excerpts that provide information and opinion about the African American Vernacular English phrase "going ham" (also given as "went ham").

The content of this post is presented for linguistic, historical, and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
WARNING- This post includes euphemistic spelling of a word that is considered to be profanity. 

Click for a related pancocojams post entitled "The Colloquial Meanings Of "Hamfatter" & "Ham" In Late 19th Century & Early 20th Century United States".

These excerpts are given in no particular order and are numbered for referencing purposes only. 

EXCERPT #1 Going HAM – Meaning, Origin and Usage

June 9, 2022 BY Pearson
"… Meaning

The expression “going HAM” means you’re going as “Hard as a Motherf**ker.”* It’s a way of telling people that you will give a task or activity your maximum effort and hold nothing back. Going HAM can apply to various activities, from eating to working out or completing work.

If you “go HAM,” you go “all-in,” and you push aside all doubts and obstacles to achieve success, no matter the cost. Going HAM means that you adopt a fearless approach to a task or activity, and you give it everything you have to succeed against the odds.



The expression “going HAM” originates from hip-hop culture. Language experts attribute the use of the term to the title of the track “HAM,” released by rappers Kanye West and Jay Z. The rappers explain the meaning of the acronym HAM in the track, and it experienced quick integration into mainstream culture.

Jay Z and Kanye West are two of the biggest rappers in the world and two of the richest men in hip hop. People like to follow them and adopt the sayings and cultural nuances they introduce into hip-hop culture.

So, it wasn’t long before hip-hop heads were telling everyone they were “going HAM.” The track was released in 2011, and “going HAM” was already a saying by them**. However, language experts believe the hip-hop duo is responsible for popularizing the term.

Phrases Similar to Goin Similar to Going HAM

Wilding out.

Going loco.

Pushing your limits.

Phrases Opposite to Going HAM

Taking it easy.”…
*This is the way that word is given in that article.

**The word “them” in this article might be a typo for “then” as “a saying by them” isn’t either grammatically correct or the way that that sentence would be given in vernacular English. Furthermore, “by then” better fits the first part of that sentence “…going HAM” was already a saying by then”. That sentence means that "going HAM" was already a saying before Kanye West and Jay Z recorded their 2011 record "H.A.M." Read the first two urban dictionary entries that are quoted immediately below.

These entries are presented chronologically with the earliest entries given first. Numbers are added for referencing purposes only.

1. "HAM

acronym for Hard as a mother- -ker*. Meaning a person is unstoppable in a competition.

Damn, Adrian Peterson went HAM last week."
by FiyaBird January 23, 2010
*This word is fully spelled out in this comment

2. "hard as a mother—ker*

H.A. M

We went ham last night at the club."
by klilbit March 5, 2010
*This word is fully spelled out in this comment.

This is the top ranked entry as of September 24, 2022 at 12:02 PM ET.

3. "

Used to describe the actions of a person as going hard as a mother—ker*, doing the activity with the utmost vigor and determination.

That fighter went ham in the ring for the win.
by dbug217 January 12, 2011
*This word is fully spelled out in this comment.

" "H•A•M" is a song by American rappers Jay-Z and Kanye West. It was released as the first single from their collaborative studio album Watch the Throne on January 11, 2011. It was produced by Lexus "Lex Luger" Lewis and Kanye West.[1] The song has served as the opening track to the duo's North American and European Watch the Throne Tour. Various rap artists have remixed it, such as Ace Hood and Busta Rhymes. The song was featured in the 2012 film Project X.[2] It peaked at No. 23 on Billboard Hot 100."
Here's more information about that record from
"This is the first single from Kanye West and Jay-Z's collaborative album, Watch The Throne. The song finds the two stars spitting R-rated braggadocio lyrics about their sexual contests and wealth.

The acronym title has nothing to do with a pork product. It refers to a phrase which features in the song's chorus, "hard as a motherf--ka".”…"

…."A quick search on Google Trends, which displays the relative popularity of a term in searches over time reveals the following:

[This article shows a Google trends graph Worldwide. 1/1/04 - 8/25/18. Web Search]

As you can see, there is a massive, massive spike in the popularity of the term in January 2011, reaching its zenith in the next month.

What happened?

On January 11, 2011, rappers Jay-Z and Kanye West released a song titled “H•A•M,” which explicitly gave the definition of going ham as “hard as a m*.” I wonder whether the “a” in the acronym is supposed to represent “as” or “a,” and where the other one went.

It’s important to note that every definition of the term on Urban Dictionary comes from January 12, 2011, or later. This is important, because many attempts to explain what the term means cite this site, and the definitions are forever tainted by the popularity of the Kanye West and Jay-Z song.

Of course, they didn’t come up with the term. Other rappers had used the phrase “go ham” in their music prior to 2011, including Gucci, who released a song titled “Go Ham On Em,” in 2008, though it lacks the full definition of the word, so it’s impossible to know which he was using at the time.

Here’s a chart over the same time period for the phrase “hard as a m*”:

First, you need to know that the phrase “hard as a m*” has a lower overall volume, and since Google Trends makes its charts based on a percentage scale and not a raw volume, small changes in a term with a small overall search volume can look like massive spikes. So the spikes towards the beginning of this chart look more dramatic but don’t represent as many searches as they would on the “going ham” chart.

Second, there are literally zero searches for “hard as a m*” until mid-2006, while “going ham” had pretty consistent search volume from 2004 until mid-2009, where it began to take off, possibly due to increased usage in the rap community, until even Kanye and Jay-Z were using it.

Consequently, the definition of going ham predates “hard as a m*.”*

Which means that we probably have a backronym on our hands.

“What is a backronym?”

In short, it’s a “constructed phrase that purports to be the source of a word that is an acronym.”


So, what I think we’re experiencing here is that the definition of going ham has a common definition that predates the backronym for the term that comes from the rapping community. The weird fit between the phrase and the alleged acronymic definition supports this theory. If it was the source for the phrase, wouldn’t it fit better?

Furthermore, whether or not you’re aware of the second definition seems to depend on how much rap you consume.

But, maybe that’s not convincing enough for you. Of course, the Google data could, and probably is, incomplete. Maybe it is just a profane acronym.

Of course, then we have to consider its relationship with other pork-based phrases. You could have a “hammy actor,” or an actor “hamming it up.” You could do something in a “ham-fisted” manner or talk about a woman’s “hams.” Because you’re a pig.

Or maybe it has another origin: the wonderful world of radios.

An ad from the June 1977 edition of “Popular Mechanics” features the following sentence: “One of the best reasons to go ham is the quiet hi-fi sound of radios used in the two-meter ham band.” As you may have guessed, they’re trying to sell “ham radios.” So, we have a possible origin for the phrase, though not necessarily one that seems to jive with the common understanding.

But, if that is the going ham origin point, it’s probably the first or only time in history that a bunch of “cool” rappers stole a phrase from nerdy ham radio operators.”…
*This word is written that way in this article.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


No comments:

Post a Comment