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Pig in a Poke

“When ye proffer the pigge, open the poke.” Fraser’s Magazine, 1858

If this were Jeopardy, the category would be: All Things Piggish.

There are pigtails, usually referring to two symmetrical bunches of hair on either side of the head, but also the term used for twisting a handful of tobacco leaves together to be cured, shaped to resemble a twisted pig’s tail.

There’s the famous tale of  The Three Little Pigs, written in 1843 by James Orchard Hilliwell-Phillips (who just happen to have 3 last names). Unlike the Disney version, the original tale was grim. All 3 little pigs are sent out into the world by their mother, to “seek their fortune”. The first little pig builds a house of straw. The Big Bad Wolf blows it down and eats him. The second little pig builds a house of sticks, same results. The third industrious pig  builds a house out of bricks. The wolf couldn’t huff and puff hard enough to blow the house down. The wolf  gets frustrated, comes down the chimney, lands in a pot of boiling water and pig no#3 eats the him for supper.

Three Little Pigs From Super S Market

Daily Double: A set of 3 under All Things Piggish: pigs in a blanket; pig in a pig; and pig in a poke.

Most everyone has had pigs in a blanket. They’re usually hot dogs or little sausages wrapped in croissant dough. Pigs in a blanket are kind of a church potluck hors d’oeuvres.

Heidi thinks a pig in a pig is an expectant sow, but that would be lots of pigs in a pig. A singular pig in a pig is a sausage or hot dog wrapped in bacon.

Pig in a poke is an idiom as in ‘Don’t buy a pig in a poke’. If you don’t know,  a poke is a sack or bag. While I’m unfamiliar with it, apparently the term Poke is still in use a lot in Scotland and in certain parts of the US to describe just the sort of bag that would be useful for carrying a piglet.

This begs the question: Why would I carry a piglet around in my bag?

As I understand it, in the Middle Ages when meat was scarce, folks would go to the market to buy a pig in poke, take it home unopened, and discover they’d been tricked with a dog or cat in their poke (thus the 500 year old idiom: ‘Don’t let the cat out of the bag’). A pig that’s in a poke might turn out to be no pig at all.

Final Jeopardy! “Why do Texans put pigs on a poke?”

I’ve been asking the oil rig guys this question as they go through the gate. In all fairness, some of the guys are from Louisiana and some are from Mississippi where it’s likely things other than pigs are placed on pokes.

Answers:

“Don’t know, why do they put  pigs on a poke?” I got this a lot. They thought it was a riddle.

 

‘Probably catfish. They grow real big here.”

“It’s a grand Texas tradition: pure sun-dried hide tannin’!”

“Y’all aren’t from around here, are ya? That’s just plain ‘ole bored rednecks for ya.”

Final Jeopardy! response:” What is a bored redneck?”

I leave you with these inspirational words from John Heywood:

I will neuer bye the pyg in the poke: Thers many a foule pyge in a feyre cloke.”

To that I would add my own: “I will neuer go to Smiley bye the pygs on the poke: The foule pyge ther maint give me a stroke.”

 

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2 thoughts on “Pig in a Poke

  1. You know I gave my X a pig in a poke at the bank (can I say it?) Christmas party. I am sure you know the story. I will say it was the only way I could carry it in the car and not fear it rooting around. Although I was unaware a burlap bag was a “poke” before now. It turned out well no one let the “cat out of the bag”, or the surprise would have bee spoiled 🙂

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