Thursday, September 17, 2009

A pig in a poke

Yesterday on the news a union spokesman said, 'The deal on the table is literally a pig in a poke.'

Which makes one wonder what, literally, a pig in a poke is.


I have consulted all of my reference books and not one of them includes the phrase so it's off to the internet I go.

Right, got it. A poke is a small sack or bag and the phrase is roughly the equivalent of caveat emptor - let buyer beware. 'Don't buy a pig until you have seen it.'

In 1530, Richard Hill gave this advice to market traders in his Common-place Book: "When ye proffer the pigge open the poke."

So the union spokesman was probably right to be wary although I doubt if the deal were literally a pig in a poke.

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On my reference-book shelf I found the bought-in-a-secondhand-shop-but-never-read-as-I'd-forgotten-I-had-it How to Turn Your Holidays into Popular Fiction. It sounds like a must for my holiday reading: I shall pack it.

1 comment:

Anna said...

That bit "I doubt if the deal were literally a pig in a poke" made me laugh out loud quite a lot.