This putdown first gained popularity in the 1850s as a way to show a lack of awe toward the powerful. The term is borrowed from Chinook Jargon, a trading language used by Pacific Northwest tribes during the nineteenth century. Muckamuck means food or provisions and the phrase hiu muckamuck translates roughly as “plenty to eat.” English-speaking Americans adopted a slightly mangled version as slang for a “big shot,” possibly with the idea that having plenty of provisions translates into wealth and power. Politicians who needed taking down a peg were soon being sarcastically labeled “high muckamucks.” The label is still occasionally heard today, and still works just as well.
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