when pigs fly

November 5, 2007

flyingpigs.jpg“When pigs fly” is an idiom meaning wishful thinking or something very unlikely to happen. So if you’re feeling a bit cynical about that bundled package of phone, Internet, and TV services being shoved down your throat by some overzealous, intrusive telemarketer, feel free to unleash that little gem on them.As far as the origin of this delightful, porcine expression, Michael Quinon states on his website “World Wide Words

“We have to go back a long way to find the original of this idea. It seems to have been a traditional Scottish proverb, which was first written down in 1586 in an edition of John Withal’s English-Latin dictionary for children. This had an appendix of proverbs rendered into Latin, of which one was the usual form of the proverb in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: “pigs fly in the air with their tails forward”. If they did indeed fly, the proverb argues, flying backwards would seem a small extra feat.”

There is a veritable pig trough of flying pig references out there, some more famous than others. This is a reference from Lewis Carroll:

“Thinking again?” the Duchess asked, with another dig of her sharp little chin.”I’ve a right to think,” said Alice sharply, for she was beginning to feel a little worried.”Just about as much right,” said the Duchess, “as pigs have to fly….” — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, chapter 9.

According to Wikipedia, the author John Steinbeck used a winged pig that he called Pigasus in his signature and his exlibris. His wife Elaine relates his sentiment that “Man must aspire though he be earth-bound”.A flying or floating pig is one of the symbols associated with the rock band Pink Floyd and often appeared at concerts in the form of a large pig balloon.Well, that’s enough information gathering for now. I must hit the sack, since I plan on getting up extra early tomorrow morning…to work out.When pigs fly!

3 Responses to “when pigs fly”

  1. Spooky Says:

    “The Walrus and the Carpenter” are the titular characters in the poem of the same name, which is recited by Tweedledum and Tweedledee to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass.”
    Walking upon a beach one “sunny” night, the Walrus and Carpenter come upon some oysters, four of whom they invite to join them – however, to the disapproval of the eldest oyster, many more follow them. After walking along the beach, the two characters get hungry and eat all of the oysters. Afterward, the Walrus regrets his actions and cries, mostly because now there are no more oysters for him to eat.

    The time has come,
    the walrus said.
    To talk of many things,
    of shoes and ships
    and sealing wax,
    of cabbages and kings.
    And why the sea is boiling hot
    and whether pigs have wings.

    Spooky likes Through the Looking Glass and all the imagery contained therein.
    Lewis Carroll would have been lucky if you had illustrated that fantastical piece of writing.

    Please, please, please give us a Cheshire Cat!!!

  2. sketched out Says:

    Not sure if I could do Carroll’s work justice, but it would be a fun project nontheless. I might just give it a crack.

  3. Paul Says:

    Hi Linda,

    Love the pigs … Is it possible to use the image in one of my English lessons to illustrate the idiom? I upload my lessons to my website for students to download.


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