Saying – Chicago, Illinois

yoke around someone’s neck

meaning: a burden for someone

My informant said that he first heard this saying while visiting his grandparents in a suburb by Chicago. He first heard this saying when his grandmother was complaining about the neighbourhood squirrels eating all of the feed in their bird feeder. She remarked, “those squirrels are a yoke around my neck”, referring to how much stress they put her under, although this could berhaps be an eggaderation. I asked the informant whether he thought that usage of this phrase was widespread around the different areas of the United States. He said that he believes that the saying is primarily used in the rural areas of the midwest, or perhaps the south.

This fits the nature of the saying since the yoke was historically used as a harness for livestock. The yoke would be placed around an animal’s neck, usually a mule or a donkey, so that the animal could pull a tilling device back and forth across a field to turn the soil. Since the saying is specifically referring to a device that is used for agriculture, it is only natural that the saying only be common in areas that this item is seen, or was seen previously in a rural area.