I would like to know the meaning of a grade-hog in this New York Times quotation about How We Learn by Benedict Carey:

Carey, a New York Times science reporter, begins his book with a confession: He once was a grind. Like those high-school students in South Korea, he was “the kid who sweated the details, who made flashcards. A striver, a grade-hog, a worker bee.”

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    That's not a sentence. The meaning seems clear from the other two phrases, but please give a bit more context if you can. If you're unclear on the other two phrases, please look up "strive" and "worker bee" in a dictionary and edit to tell what you found and what questions remain. Commented Jun 28 at 19:06
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    It's not a usage I've ever seen before. I would guess that a "grade-hog" would try to edge out other students for a good grade.
    – user888379
    Commented Jun 28 at 19:09
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    Does your current level of English experience allow you to guess whether this compound word is talking about a grader of hogs or about a hogger of grades?
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 28 at 19:40
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    Actually grade-hog is a oxymoron and a slur. Should students condemn one the studious student? Does a student getting a good grade prevent others from doing so?
    – Xanne
    Commented Jun 28 at 20:56
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    @Xanne I assume you're not really asking, right? You're not familiar with "breaking the curve" and the repercussions a student might face for getting a good/the best grade? But anyone can be an anything-hog, is it a slur or just an extreme? I can see it as a pun grade A hog. Anywhoomp.
    – livresque
    Commented Jun 29 at 0:59

4 Answers 4


This is related to the following sense of "hog" from M-W

3 a: a selfish, gluttonous, or filthy person
b: one that uses something to excess
old cars that are gas hogs

So it means someone who goes to extreme lengths (e.g. making flash cards for memorizing facts) to earn good grades. The rest of the quoted text makes it clear that the author is characterizing himself as an overachiever -- he's just trying to get good grades for himself, not trying to take anything away from others.

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    Flash cards aren't extreme lengths, they are a legitmate memorization aid
    – No Name
    Commented Jun 29 at 14:35
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    @NoName Back when I was in high school, "legitimate memorization aids" were considered going to extreme lenghts by the cool boys. Reading the book multiple times and maybe having a classmate explain it to you and half-assing the test was what was considered the baseline. Having to actually work by writing the information that was already in the book was too much effort already for the average student.
    – Zachiel
    Commented Jun 29 at 14:58
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    A part of the concept that should probably be emphasised is that the student is motivated by the grades (and, perhaps, similar rewards that are external to the knowledge itself), rather than by the intrinsic value of the knowledge.
    – jsw29
    Commented Jun 29 at 16:01
  • Reading the book multiple times never occurred to me! Commented Jun 29 at 18:32
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    Here the term "hog" is used with the specific pejorative meaning of collecting something but also excluding others from having it. It isn't just saying the person covets grades (as the term grade grubber would), its also to imply they annoy/directly disadvantage other people when they do it. E.g. someone who hogs all the pizza (leaving others with no pizza and therefore angry/annoyed at the hogger) as opposed to an inefficient gas-hog car which doesn't stop others from getting gas. This answer misses the disadvantaging of others part and needs to mention the "ruining the grading curve" aspect.
    – Esco
    Commented Jul 1 at 7:58

It's similar in meaning to a grade grubber.

The Urban Dictionary show the top result for grade grubber as:

Someone who feels the need to have a better score than anyone else in the known (and perhaps unknown) universe. If someone gets a higher score, the grade grubber seeks an immediate answer to the question of why s/he does not have the highest, bestest, prettiest score, most colorful star, or brightest happy face sticker, and thus proceeds to not shut up about it for 12 days until the next grade issue arises.

Likewise, from the article "Why You Should Not Engage in Grade Grubbing":

Grade Grubbing (also called "grade begging" or "grade lawyering") is the act of a student going to a professor and asking for a grade to be raised for no legitimate reason. Often the student argues that they feel their work was "not graded fairly", or they made only a small mistake and should get more points, or they knew what they were doing even though they gave the wrong answer. Grade grubbing often involves asking for detailed justification of why certain points were taken off, questioning subjective aspects of grading (e.g., Why is this problem worth 5 points and this one worth 7 points?), and wearing down the professor by arguing, begging, and pleading until they finally relent and increase the student's grade.


A 'grade-hog' is someone who achieves a marking score that is so high that it prevents the tutor from artificially inflating other student's grades to match a normal distribution.

The theory is that a very sharp student who aces an exam that everyone else has trouble with will "throw off the curve." For example, if the majority of testers earned a 70% and only one student in the whole class earned an A, a 98%, then when the teacher goes to adjust the grades, that outlier could make it harder for other students to score higher.

Thoughtco - Grading on a curve

If I get 100% on a test by studying far harder than would normally be expected, it prevents other students from being given extra marks to inflate their grades (since I would have now have a score of more than 100%), so everyone has to stay with their original lower grades.

I have literally hogged, that is to say selfishly taken, the highest grade.

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    This doesn't seem to be what the quote is describ ing when it says "A striver, a grade-hog, a worker bee." It's just someone who treies really hard to get good grades.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jul 1 at 4:31
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    @Barmar - Hogging means to unjustly and selfishly garner unto oneself. You "hog" the limelight from others.
    – Richard
    Commented Jul 1 at 6:14
  • I think the "gas hog" example from the definition I quoted may be more on point. If my car is a gas hog, it's not preventing other people from getting gas. If you're a food hog, you just eat an excessive amount of food, but you're not generally taking from someone else.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jul 1 at 15:01
  • @Barmar - In both instances you're hogging the gas, that is to say, taking more than your fair share. Think road-hog or hogging the buffet.
    – Richard
    Commented Jul 1 at 15:02
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    @Barmar, this may not may not be the case, depending in whether the grading is 'on a curve'. But even if the grading is not on a curve, the grades often play a role in competitive pursuits (such as obtaining employment or admission to further education), and one's grades thus do affect the value of the grades of others.
    – jsw29
    Commented Jul 1 at 15:37

Grade hogger would presumably mean a student who tries excessively hard to get good grades, it's similar to phrases like "goodie-two-shoes" and "teachers pet", referring to students who follow all the rules by the book, do everything they can to curry favor with their teachers and the school administration, spend long nights cramming for tests and doing their homework, who are smart enough to know the answers but unintelligent (or intelligent) enough to be extremely obedient and docile, for whom even an ounce of trouble at school is completely alien, and who avoid partying like the plague.

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