If you get a pig in a poke, you have bought or accepted something without knowing its value or seeing it first, but on the other hand, they say to never look a gift horse in the mouth. This saying always confused me, as I originally thought it had something to do with the Trojan Horse, but it is about the length of a horses’ teeth, as horses become longer in the tooth as they age and if you look inside the mouth of a horse that you got as a gift, it is considered to be rude. Doubting Thomas lacked the confidence to believe that Jesus had rose from the kingdom of the dead, so he would not be the best example of somebody that would buy a pig in a poke.
A poke is a bag or a sack, and in the old days, pigs were brought to market for sale in a cloth bag, thus the origin for a pig in a poke. I also heard that the origin of this expression came from butchers putting cats in bags instead of pigs and as Will Rogers once said, “Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than putting it back in.” Unscrupulous sellers were notorious for pulling the old switcharoo, placing a cat in a bag, and instructing the buyer not to open it until they got home, so the pig couldn’t escape. If the buyer was a real nut or stupid enough to carry a wiggling bag all the way home, only to have it revealed that when they opened the bag, that they had a feral cat instead of a piglet, then they deserve to be cheated. I think it would make me smile if I saw a cat coming out of a bag that I thought was a pig.
This scheme continued for generations throughout Europe and eventually, “pig in a poke” became an idiom for any purchase made by an individual which turned out to be of far less value than they had been led to believe. Consumers became wiser and they inspected the contents inside the bag, so they did not make a hideously huge mistake. Knowing what was inside the bag allowed them to breathe freely, as peace of mind is its own award. An adynaton is a figure of speech in the form of hyperbole taken to such extreme lengths as to insinuate a complete impossibility, like when pigs fly, because we all know that will never happen. The phrase is often used for humorous effect, to scoff at over-ambition, but I just purchased some flying pig slippers and if you want to meet me in St. Louis, I will show them to you.
Written for Sheryl’s Daily Word Prompt – Confidence, for Roger Shipp’s Daily Addictions prompt – Think, for the Daily Spur prompt – Smile, for FOWC with Fandango – Best, for Christine’s Daily Writing Prompt – Meet me in St. Louis, for Linda G. Hill’s ‘Life in progress’ JusJoJan prompt – Poke, for December Writing Prompts – Hideously huge, for Ragtag Community – Breathe, for Di’s Three Things Challenge prompt words – Slipper Award Nut and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Kingdom.