Pascal Trégueretymology, French/English, literature, religionanimals, cats, Christianity, economics, folk etymology, man Heywood, Latin, phrases, Wycliffe

In this expression, the noun poke denotes a baga tiny sack. That is native Anglo-Norman and Old northern French forms such as poke and pouque, variants that the Old French forms poche and pouche — the last of which is the origin of English pouch. (Incidentally, English pocket is native Anglo-Norman poketpokete, diminutive forms of poke.)

The expression to buy a pig in a poke simply cautions against buying or accepting something without an initial seeing or assessing it: if you don’t want to end up through something of much less value 보다 expected, you need to ‘look in the bag’, the is come say examine the was carefully. It is similar to Latin caveat emptor, literally let the the person who lives beware.

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The metaphor is recorded as beforehand as around 1275 in the poem called The Proverbs of Hendyng:

Wan man ȝevit þe a pig, opin þe powch (= once a man gives thee a pig, open up the pouch).

A manuscript date from around 1450 has:

When me profereth þe pigge, opon þe pogh, For when he is one olde swyn, then tyte hym nowȝt. Translation: when a male proffers the pig, open the pough <= bag>, For as soon as it is an old swine, thou carry out not take it.

Produced throughout the years 1503-36, the commonplace book of Richard Hill, a London grocer, contains

When ye proffer the pigge open the poke.

together through such proverbs together “Better yt ys late than never.” and also “A gode begynnyng makyth a gode endyng.

In Two hundreds epigrammes, vpon 2 hundred prouerbes through a thyrde hundred newely included and made by Iohn Heywood (1555), the English playwright and epigrammatist john Heywood (1496?-1578?) wrote:

Bying a Pyg: ns wyll neuer taking leave the pyg in the poke: Thers plenty of a foule pyg in a feyre cloke <= a same cloak>.

A variant of to to buy a pig in a poke, to to buy a cat in the sack seems to have actually been offered only once; it is uncovered in De Blasphemia, contra Fratres (around 1380), by the English spiritual reformer man Wycliffe (circa 1330-84):

To bye a catte in þo sakke is bot litel fee : come bye chirchis by symonye semes sumwhat siker : bot because that to taking leave þus heven and broþerhed the Crist, struggle semes chaffere of Lucifer, and also withouten grounde. Translation: to buy a cat in the bag is but small charge; come buy churches by simony seems somewhat safe; yet as for buying thus heaven and brotherhood the Christ, it appears chaffer <= trade> the Lucifer, and without ground.

This coincides to the useless French expression acheter conversation en poche, or en sac, literally to buy cat in poke, or in sack. The following is from A Dictionarie that the French and English Tongues (1611), by Randle Cotgrave:

Acheter chat en poche, ou en sac. Us say, to buy a pig in a poke.

French additionally had vendre conversation en poche, literally to market cat in poke, and acheter le chat pour le lièvreto purchase the cat because that the hare.




A popular yet erroneous theory, of which countless variants exist, establishes a link between to purchase a pig in a poke and to allow the cat the end of the bag.

According to this theory, a dishonest farmer, claiming come be selling a young pig, could substitute a cat in a bound bag. A circumspect buyer would study the purchase on the spot; an unwary one would not do so until it was as well late. One of two people way, the cat would then be the end of the bag and also the truth would it is in known.

This concept makes little sense, due to the fact that a live cat in a bag deserve to hardly be mistaken for a piglet.

Additionally, the phrase to permit the cat out of the bag, i beg your pardon is only recorded in the second fifty percent of the 18th century, around five century after the metaphor a pig in a poke, has actually only been associated with the latter within the context of this erroneous theory.

The existence, prior to that of to permit the cat out of the bag, of the English and also French phrases to to buy a cat in the sack and acheter/vendre chat en poche is no a counterargument, as the latter phrases have never appeared in contrast to the an allegory conveyed by the former. Together for acheter le chat pour le lièvre, it describes a dead cat substituted because that a dead hare in a hunter’s video game bag.


I have actually exposed number of other people etymologies, in certain in the adhering to articles: – origin the ‘Indian summer’ and French ‘été sauvage’The normal explanation the ‘Hobson’s choice’ is fallacious.

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