When Pigs Fly

There was a request for the origin of the wonderfully unbelievable phrase “When pigs fly”. So as I’m a man of my word here it is!

The phrase “When pigs fly” is used as a humorous way to say that something will never happen. We have all heard it used or used it ourselves to emphasize the impossibility of a certain scenario but never really thought about how something like that became a staple in our vocabulary. It appears the earliest appearance of the phrase appears in an old Scottish proverb dating from John Withal’s English-Latin dictionary A Shorte Dictionarie for Yonge Begynners  in which the phrase “pigs fly in the ayre with their tayles forward” appeared. The phrase made it’s first appearance in its modern form through a biography by Charles Whitehead in 1835 about Jack Ketch, the wonderful man who was the royal executioner for Charles II, in it the phrase appeared as such, “Yes, pigs may fly, but they’re very unlikely birds”. 

From here the the phrase became a more common figure of speech and actually was utilized by Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865,

“I’ve a right to think,”  Alice sharply….”Just about as much right,” said the Duchess, “as pigs have to fly.”

Bringing it up to relative modern day, American author John Steinbeck was told by his professor that he would become an author when pigs flew. When Steinbeck became an author he had the phrase “Ad astra per alia porci” (to the stars on the wings of a pig) printed in his books.

Although the phrase is used to convey an impossible outcome one man tried in a joking attempt to prove that it was in fact possible for a pig to fly.  John Theodore Cuthbert Moore-Brabazon in 1909 took a piglet into the skies in his biplane. So even though pigs cannot fly on their own, thanks to one comical man, the phrase “when pigs fly” does not completely doom one’s seemingly unattainable dreams.


One thought on “When Pigs Fly

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s