Okay, I’ll confess I found out already, but I had to ask the question when Sugar Babe saw the new cover photo posted by her niece on Facebook, showing her daughter dressed in a princess outfit.
“Looks like she’s sittin’ on a croker sack,” Sugar Babe opined.
“That doesn’t look like a Kroger sack,” sez I. “Those are plastic and have handles. This looks like a gunny sack.” I looked askance at her, as I am wont to do. She grew up in Georgia and they talk funny down there. Being a normal person who grew up in Iowa, it takes me some doin’ to figger out their weird turns of speech sometimes.
“Not ‘Kroger’,” said she. “Croker!”
“What the heck’s a croker sack??” I asked. See? I had to ask, just like I said.
We discussed it all up and down, and I finally pestered her into researching the origin of that term. She burned up the Googleways until she found an opinion that felt really authoritative, so I accept that I’ve actually learned something today and had to pass it on to anybody who might find themselves bored enough to read this. It’s from the Word Detective website, which I’ll link here, and paste the meat of it below for easier finding. And I have to point out that the person asking the question came up with it after moving to. . .you guessed it. . .Georgia.
I rest my case.
Dear Word Detective: When I moved to Georgia I heard a number of people refer to a burlap feed sack as a “croker sack,” but never got the origin of that name. Finally, while coon hunting with a good ole boy who referred to the southern sack, I asked for and got his take on “croker sack.” He told me that he and others who frog gig, or frog grab, carry burlap feed sacks to put the frogs in and thus the name. Since frogs may be called “croakers,” I suppose that it is actually then “croaker sack.” Somehow I am not convinced that this is the only origin of the “croker/croaker sack,” and I’d like to know if you’ve ever heard of this name for burlap feed sacks. — Catherine Symanowski.
Bags of frogs, huh? Sounds like fun. I was planning on eventually moving to someplace with bookstores and decent restaurants and maybe even a symphony orchestra, but I now have a new criterion for my ideal abode. I saved a snake the other day, incidentally. It was crossing our road and a truck was coming, so I jumped up and down in front of it until it turned around and slithered to safety. I know the truck wouldn’t have stopped for the snake because it didn’t even slow down for me. We gotta get out of this place.
It’s true that “croaker” is slang for a frog in many places in the U.S., as well as a term used to denote a wide variety of fish species, some of which apparently actually make a croaking sound. “Croaker” has also been used at various times to mean a person who complains or speaks in a depressing manner, a person or animal close to death (about to “croak”), and, especially in U.S. prisons, a doctor.
But none of these senses of “croaker” underlie “croaker sack.” The forms “croaker sack” and “croker sack” are both variants of “crocus sack,” the coarse burlap bags used to ship crocus. The crocus, known to most of us as a colorful flowering plant, is, more importantly from an economic standpoint, also the source of saffron, an orange-red powder used in flavoring and coloring food. (This saffron differs from “Indian saffron,” which is the spice turmeric.) While “croker sack” is primarily heard in the American South today, “croker” as a term for a crocus merchant dates all the way back to 16th century England.