In a pig's eye!

Discuss word origins and meanings.
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In a pig's eye!

Post by Shelley » Fri Aug 12, 2005 12:29 am

So, when we were talking about blind pigs, I thought of asking about this, and then got distracted. Also, when Ken Greenwald was responding to "can't *** for toffee", he included the following quote:
circa 1930 “The eternal flame of the high ideal is all MY-EYE.” —‘Phoenix: Posthumous Papers’ (1936), edited by. E. D. McDonald) by D. H. Lawrence, page 588>
I’ve heard and employed “my eye” and “my foot”. Along with “in a pig’s eye”, they all mean something like "nonsense" or "B.S." or "never". Any history?

In a pig's eye!

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Aug 18, 2005 5:26 am

Shelley, The derisive retort IN A PIG’S EYE!, is chiefly U.S. and Australian (according to the OED), and is a vehement denial expressing scornful disbelief at a statement, and meaning never, absolutely not, not a chance, no way, not on your life, fat chance, like hell, nonsense ('my eye' and 'my foot'). Variations include IN A PIG’S EAR / ASS / ARSE / ASSHOLE / NECK / POKE / TONSIL / WIG. <“They think I’m going to bail him out of this one. In a pig’s eye I will!”>.

It appears that no one knows the origin of this phrase for sure, but there are several theories:

1) Is a euphemism for the U.S. rural catch phrases “in a/the pig’s ass,” which referred to bestiality and appeared in a bawdy song as well as many coarse jokes.

2) Is rhyming slang for ‘when pigs fly,’ which is never.

3) Relates to a once popular shipboard game “placing the pig’s eye,” in which the figure of a pig was outlined on the deck, and blindfolded players had to place an object representing the pig’s eye in the proper anatomical position. Their chances of success were slim at best. [this is a long shot]

4) The “pig’s ear’ was the receptacle kept on the bridge of a navel vessel into which watchmen and others might urinate without having to leave their post. It’s not clear how this came to mean ‘no way,’ when this was clearly ‘a way.’ (<:)
<1872 “A poetickal cotashun . . . which . . . wuz,—‘Kum wun, kim all, this rock shel fly From its firm base—IN A PIG’S EYE.’—‘Struggles’ (from a satirical newspaper column) by Petroleum V. Nasby, cxiii. page 315>

<1919 “Digger Dialect’. 38 “PIG’S EAR, a contemptuous ejaculation.”—‘Digger Dialect’ by W. H. Downing, page 38>

<1932 “‘Here I am,’ he says: ‘I did it . . . and that means Mary didn't!’ . . . ‘IN A PIG’S EYE it does!’”—‘Star of Earth’ by O. R. Cohen, xxv. page 270>

<1968 “‘One stops short of probing the private lives of people for whom one has a regard.’ ‘IN A PIG’S EAR!’ she said vulgarly. ‘If duty called you'd have a man under the bed on my honeymoon.’”—‘Deep, deep Freeze’ by W. Garner, ix. page 110>

<1968 “‘He claimed he didn't want to—’ Mrs. Fogarty said, ‘IN A PIG’S EYE he didn't want to.’”—‘Con Game’ by H. Waugh, v. page 53>

<1974 “My wife and I have asked a crowd of craps To come and waste their time and ours: perhaps You'd care to join us? IN A PIG’S ARSE, friend.”—‘High Windows’ by P. Larkin, page 35 >

<1976 “Attorney General Edward Levi let it be known that he considered the matter ‘extremely serious’. To officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Levi's comment was a monumental understatement. ‘Extremely serious IN A PIG’S EYE,’ said one. ‘It's a disaster.’”—‘Time Magazine, 5 April, page 23/2>
(Oxford English Dictionary, Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Picturesque Expressions by Urdang, Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, How Not to Say What You Mean by Holder, Oxford Dictionary of Idioms, Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés, American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Chapman’s Dictionary of Slang)

Ken G – August 17, 2005

P.S. I’ll take a look at ‘my eye’ and ‘my foot’ in a separate posting.

In a pig's eye!

Post by Shelley » Fri Aug 19, 2005 1:47 am

Many thanks, Ken -- as always!

In a pig's eye!

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sat Aug 20, 2005 12:02 am

Shelley in Aus this expression is often shortened, as is the love of Aussies to do with language, to simply "pigs!" ..
1933: "Pigs to you, yer old man's got the stringholt." - Saturdee by Norman Lindsay, p124.

1957: "Get yourself a job somewhere. Like in a paint factory? Pigs I will!" - Summer of th 17th Doll by Ray Lawler, p76.

1975: "Ar, pigs to you! In your dinger too!" - The Shearers by Les Ryan, p119.
.. also it is much more common to hear pig's arse or pig's bum than the more genteel pig's ear

WoZ of Aus 20/08/05
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

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