The phrase When Pigs
There are lots of variations
on sayings associated with the idea of pigs flying, as an example of something
obviously nonsensical or of some event that is extremely unlikely to occur.
Things might improve if the other party gets elected, one person
might say. And pigs might fly, comes the sarcastic rejoinder.
My own favourite way of enlivening meetings was to wait until somebody produced
a choice bit of wishful thinking disguised as a strategy proposal and then
point out of the window in a surprised sort of way. Oh, look,
I would say, theres a pig flying by!. (As Dilbert once said,
Im not anti-management, Im just anti-idiot.)
Let us return to our
muttons, or rather our porks. We have to go back a long way to find the original
of this idea. It seems to have been a traditional Scottish proverb, which
was first written down in 1586 in an edition of John Withals English-Latin
dictionary for children. This had an appendix of proverbs rendered into Latin,
of which one was the usual form of the proverb in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries: pigs fly in the air with their tails forward. If they
did indeed fly, the proverb argues, flying backwards would seem a small extra
Another version is more
famous, because it appears in Alices Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis
Carroll: Ive a right to think, said Alice sharply... Just
about as much right, said the Duchess, as pigs have to fly.
Other forms that have appeared at various times include and pigs could fly
if they had wings, and pigs may fly, but they are very unlikely birds.