ENGLISCH/861: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (170) Do pigs fly (SB)


170. Pigs might fly

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

... Now, here is my question. Have you ever heard, that "pigs can fly". Well this is at least what my English employer said to me, when I asked for some time off, to go swimming and proposed to work overtime in the evening instead. You know what he did? Well, he said something about pigs flying and gave me the sack. Now, I really liked that job. No hard work, lots to eat...I sort of had to tidy up the tables in a restaurant ... But still I wonder if my ex-boss was quite right in his head. I'm probably better of not working for him. Now, what's about this pigs?


Jetsia M. (from Sambia)


Dear Mr M.,

First of all, the idiom you where looking for is "pigs might fly". And secondly, your former employer is not an idiot, because the phrase "pigs might fly" is fairly often used in English.

Well, pigs of course have four feet and they live on the ground. In fact they spend most of their time with their noses down on ground level. They certainly don't have wings and they definitely don't fly. So, if people tell you that they "see a pig fly" you can be sure that they are "telling a lie", or that they are quite "economical with the truth", or at the very least "they are just exaggerating". They are giving the impression that something is bigger and better or more surprising than it really is.

Well, we all know that pigs don't really fly. So read this following example of everyday's conversation and work out what the English mean with "pigs might fly".

John and Ann have got money problems (who hasn't?):

John: "Lets go out and have a nice meal at the restaurant."

Ann: "No John, we shouldn't spend the money."

John: "Oh, don't you worry, dear."

Ann: "But I do worry. We should use the money for something we really need. Not for all luxury like eating out. I'll fix us some finger food and we can watch the telly, okay. That'll be nice and cheap."

John: "But well you see, your uncle Simon is coming to see us next week. He's got lots of money. When he hears about our problems he might put his hand in his pocket and give us a thousand or two."

Ann: "Pigs might fly. Didn't you know the richer people are the meaner they often are. And my Uncle Simon is no exception."

So when John said, that Uncle Simon might give them some money Ann responds "Pigs might fly" meaning its very unlikely that Uncle Simon will ever give them money. It's about as likely as seeing a pig flying through the air.

And as likely as "seeing a pig flying through the air" your employer believed obviously in your promise to work late. I wish you good luck finding a new job and "don't buy a pig in a poke", find yourself a new boss with a little more humour,


Miranda Gobbledygook

14 July 2009