That gave us the idea for today's phrase: "In a pig's eye!"
Surprisingly to us, this phrase did not trace its roots back to a pig - nor any animal, in fact. Except for the human animal.
|Portrait of a Saxon Princess, by Lucas|
Cranach the Elder, 1517. Public Domain
The Oxford English Dictionary pins the origin of this phrase back to a word used in the late 14th century.
“Piga” was the Saxon word for “girl” and “pigsney” an endearment used for a beloved girl or sweetheart.
Probably the oldest use in print dates back to Chaucer’s “Miller’s Tale” in 1390:
“Hir shoes were laced on hir legges hye; She was a prymerole, a piggesnye, For any lord to leggen in his bedde.”
Later, though, the OED tells us the term began to be used in a derogatory fashion. And by the mid-1800’s its use was almost exclusively associated with an exclamation of derision and disbelief – the same as it is today.
We traced its first use in print based on the modern definition to a former soldier named J. Jacob Oswandel, who fought in the Mexican-American War. In his 1847 memoir, entitled “Notes on the Mexican War,” he wrote:
“Nicholas P. Trist, Commissioner, is on his way to negotiate with the Mexican government to make peace. How are you peace—peace in a pig's eye.”
|Baby Potbellied pig - eyeing you! Photo: Marianne Perdomo|
Somerset Record Society, Volume IX, 1859. TAUNTON : FREDERICK MAY, HIGH-STREET LONDON : BELL & DALDY, FLEET-STREET. 1860.
Chaucer Miller's Tale, line 3268, c 1390.
The Oxford English Dictionary
Online Etymology Dictionary
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