Pig in a poke


Pig in a poke

Pig-in-a-poke is an idiom that refers to a confidence trick originating in the Late Middle Ages, when meat was scarce but apparently rats and cats were not.

The scheme entailed the sale of a "suckling pig" in a "poke" (bag). The wriggling bag actually contained a cat—not particularly prized as a source of meat—that was sold—the bag unopened—to the victim. The French term "acheter (un) chat en poche" (to buy a cat in a bag) refers to the fact, as do many European equivalents, while the English expression refers to the appearance of the trick. [Brewer, "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable", 1898.]

A common colloquial expression in the English language, to "buy a pig in a poke," is to make a risky purchase without inspecting the item beforehand. The phrase can also be applied to accepting an idea or plan without a full understanding of its basis. Similar expressions exist in other languages, most of them meaning to buy a cat in a bag, with some exceptions:

This trick also appears to be the origin of the expressions "Let the cat out of the bag" [ [http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/227250.html Let the cat out of the bag] ] , meaning 'to reveal that which is secret' (if the would-be buyer opened the bag, the trick would be revealed) [Brewer, "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable", 1898.] ; and "left holding the bag," meaning 'to find oneself with nothing for their efforts,' as the cat (and perhaps the customer) is quite likely to flee when the bag is opened.

"Pig in a Poke" is a fictional game show in the 1985 comedy film National Lampoon's European Vacation (which was based on Family Feud, but had the families wear pig costumes).

References

Notes

Bibilography

*E. Cobham Brewer, [http://www.bartleby.com/81/13246.html "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable] ". 1898.
*Funk, Charles Earle, "A Hog on Ice: & Other Curious Expressions". HarperResource, 2002. ISBN 0-06-051329-2.
*National Lampoon's European Vacation - The television game show the Griswolds played that won them the trip.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • pig in a poke — If someone buys a pig in a poke, they buy something without checking the condition it was in, usually finding out later that it was defective …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • pig in a poke — pig′ in a poke′ n. something purchased, accepted, or acquired without a preliminary examination • Etymology: 1520–30 …   From formal English to slang

  • pig in a poke — something offered in such a way that the one to whom it is offered does not know exactly what the thing is nor what its real value is was too shrewd ever to buy a pig in a poke * * * something not adequately appraised or of undetermined value, as …   Useful english dictionary

  • pig in a poke — {n. phr.} An unseen bargain; something accepted or bought without looking at it carefully. * /Buying land by mail is buying a pig in a poke: sometimes the land turns out to be under water./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • pig in a poke — {n. phr.} An unseen bargain; something accepted or bought without looking at it carefully. * /Buying land by mail is buying a pig in a poke: sometimes the land turns out to be under water./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • pig in a poke — Date: 1562 something offered in such a way as to obscure its real nature or worth < unwilling to buy a pig in a poke > …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • pig\ in\ a\ poke — n. phr. An unseen bargain; something accepted or bought without looking at it carefully. Buying land by mail is buying a pig in a poke: sometimes the land turns out to be under water …   Словарь американских идиом

  • pig in a poke —    If someone buys a pig in a poke, they buy something without checking the condition it was in, usually finding out later that it was defective.   (Dorking School Dictionary) …   English Idioms & idiomatic expressions

  • pig in a poke — See a pig in a poke …   English idioms

  • pig in a poke — something accepted or bought without looking at it carefully The stereo system he bought was a pig in a poke. He has no idea if it will work well …   Idioms and examples


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