- Lipstick on a pig
To put "lipstick on a pig" is a rhetorical expression, used to convey the message that making superficial or cosmetic changes is a futile attempt to disguise the true nature of a product. [ [http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/idioms/put+lipstick+on+a+pig.html Using English.com] ] While the rhetorical concept appears to have a long-standing provenance, the actual phrase appears to be of 20th-century coinage, and has risen to prominence due to its use in US politics, most recently during the 2008 U.S. Presidential election.
Origins of the phrase
Pigs have long featured in proverbial expressions: a "
pig's ear", a " pig in a poke", as well as the Biblical expression " pearls before swine". Indeed, whereas the phrase "lipstick on a pig" seems to have been coined in the 20th century, the concept of the phrase may not be particularly recent. The similar expression, "You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear" seems to have been in use by the middle of the 16th century or earlier. Thomas Fuller, the British physician, noted the use of the phrase "A hog in armour is still but a hog" in 1732, here, as the "Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue" (1796) later noted "hog in armour" alludes to "an awkward or mean looking man or woman, finely dressed." The Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon(1834-1892) recorded the variation "A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog" in his book of proverbs "The Salt-Cellars" (published 1887).Ben Zimmer "Who First Put "Lipstick on a Pig"?" Slate.com Sept. 10, 2008 [http://www.slate.com/id/2199805/?GT1=38001] ]
The lipstick variety is more modern, the word
lipstickitself only coined in 1880. The rhetorical effect of linking pigs with lipstick was explored in 1926 by Charles F. Lummis, in the " Los Angeles Times", when he wrote "Most of us know as much of history as a pig does of lipsticks". However, the first recorded uses of "putting lipstick on a pig" are later. In an article in the "Quad-City Herald" (Brewster, Washington) from Jan. 31 1980, it was observed that "You can clean up a pig, put a ribbon on it's sic tail, spray it with perfume, but it is still a pig." ["'Lipstick on a pig' finds origin in tiny state newspaper" Monica Guzman September 10, 2008 SeatlePi.com [http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/thebigblog/archives/148384.asp] ] The phrase was also reported in 1985 when " The Washington Post" quoted a San Francisco radio host from KNBR-AM remarking "That would be like putting lipstick on a pig" in reference to plans to refurbish Candlestick Park(rather than constructing a new stadium for the San Francisco Giants). [cite news |first=Jay |last=Mathews |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=San Francisco Tries To Keep Baseball Raiders at Bay |url=http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=WP&p_theme=wpost&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&s_dispstring=allfields(knbr)%20and%20allfields(pig)%20AND%20date(all)&p_field_advanced-0=&p_text_advanced-0=knbr+pig&xcal_numdocs=20&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&xcal_useweights=no |work= The Washington Post|publisher= |date=1985-11-16 |accessdate=2008-09-27 ]
More recently, the phrase has been used in political rhetoric to criticize spin, and to insinuate that a political opponent is attempting to repackage established policies and present them as new.
Victoria Clarke, who was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs under Donald Rumsfeld, published a book about spin in politics titled the book "Lipstick on a Pig: Winning In the No-Spin Era by Someone Who Knows the Game". [cite book|last=Clarke|first=Victoria|title=Lipstick on a Pig: Winning In the No-Spin Era by Someone Who Knows the Game|publisher=Simon and Schuster|date=2006|isbn=0-7432-7116-5] The book argued, using anecdotes from her own career, that spin does not work in an age of transparency, when everyone will find out the truth anyway ("you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig"). [ Wendy Greenbergin Newswise Issue No. 200606, June 2006. [http://www.newswise.com/community/pionet/newsletter/2006/06/#book] ]
In recent years the phrase has become common and often controversial political invective both in the
United Kingdom["Labour 'lipstick on a pig' attack" BBCnews website Wednesday, 26 July 2006 [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5217766.stm] ] and the United States. The expression has been used by many US politicians, including both the Democratic nominee Barack Obamaand Republican nominee John McCainduring the United States Presidential Election of 2008,cite news|title=Obama rejects 'lipstick' charge|publisher= BBC|date= September 10, 2008|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7608653.stm.] [cite web|url=http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/trailhead/archive/2008/09/09/mccain-said-lipstick-too.aspx|title=McCain Said "Lipstick" Too|publication= Slate (magazine)] [ [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26633775/ "Obama accuses McCain campaign of 'lies'"] Associated Press, Sept. 10, 2008] and Vice President Dick Cheney["Turns out Dick Cheney knows about "lipstick on a pig" too" Dallas Morning NewsWed, Sep 10, 2008 [http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2008/09/turns-out-dick-cheney-knows-ab.html] ] (who called it his "favorite line"). [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/11/20041101-12.html Vice President's Remarks in Colorado Springs, Colorado]
In May 2002, brokerage firm
Charles Schwab Corporationran a television advertisement pointing out Wall Streetbrokerage firms' conflicts of interest by showing an unidentified sales manager telling his salesmen, "Let's put some lipstick on this pig!" The ad appeared shortly after New York's Attorney General Eliot Spitzerannounced that Merrill Lynchstock analysts had recommended stocks that they privately called "dogs". CBSrefused to air the ad. [ Patric K. McGeehan, Schwab Ads Take Swipe at Big Firms, [http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/28/business/media/28ADCO.html?ex=1221451200&en=e4894d81201d8931&ei=5070 The New York Times] , October 28, 2002.]
Put some rouge on the corpse - "Gov. Ernie Fletcher's budget makers and speech writers did their best to put some rouge on the corpse. But even their best efforts couldn't disguise the harsh truth in the budget he presented Tuesday: Kentucky's fiscal future lies dead in the water in almost every major respect, and there is neither a budgetary plan nor a political prospect for reviving it." ["Flat lining Kentucky" an editorial in The Courier Journal, Louisville, Ky. January 29, 2004.]
Putting a racing stripe on a turd - "As far as I'm concerned, speeding up a tax cut is like putting a racing stripe on a turd - at the end of the day, it's still a turd." [" "Had Enough? A Handbook for Fighting Back" by James Carville with Jeff Nussbaum (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2003) Page 123.]
List of political catch phrases
Cultural references to pigs
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