Let the cat out of the bag
by DUB MOWERY
Mar 10, 2013 | 738 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE MEANING of the above saying is to disclose a secret. That saying has been around for several centuries and is commonly used in different nations. It is related to the expression, “a pig in a poke.” Its basic concept is of a dishonest farmer who comes to the market in town with a bag which he claims has a piglet in it.

He discourages a potential buyer from looking inside the bag by warning him if it is opened the piglet might escape. After an agreement on price, the buyer takes the bag home before opening it. To his dismay upon opening the bag a cat, not a piglet, comes scampering out of the bag. Thus, the farmer is disclosed as being dishonest.

NOT ONLY should our business dealing be “up and above board,” but we expect those with whom we do business with to do the same. Ben K. Green wrote several interesting books about his experience in horse trading during his youth and before he became a veterinarian. He was born at Cumby, Texas in 1912 and spent his life in Texas. In the past, most small towns had a trade day at least once a month on a Saturday.

On one occasion, he bought a team of horses and a wagon at a trade day in Decatur, Texas. While riding in the wagon, Ben noticed that the horses did not look as energetic and it appeared that they were losing weight. In addition to that, their pretty red coats began to have streaks in them as the horses perspired. He knew that he had fallen victim of a dishonest horse trader. The horses had been feed arson to fatten them up and a red dye had been used to cover the horses’ coats.

LIKE MOST folks, we have had some personal experience of not getting what we paid for. Recently on two different occasions, my wife Charlotte bought some beef sandwiches at the same place. Now we don’t like their sauce, and she asked them not to put any on the sandwiches. When we got home we discovered that the sauce was on them. The next time that we bought sandwiches at the same place, she placed emphasis that we did not want the sauce. She even asked the young lady if the sauce had been left off and the girl said, “Yes!” But when we got home we discovered their sauce had again been put on the sandwiches. We learned the hard way that it was like buying “a pig in the poke.” The next time we will open the bag in front of them and check to see if it is precisely what we ordered.

CONCERNING the origin of “a pig in the poke” and its related saying, “let the cat out of the bag,” have a long history. Fraser’s Magazine, 1858 reprinted advice which was in Richard Hill’s Commonplace Book, 1530 when buying from market traders. “When ye proffer the pigge open the poke.” John Heywood in Proverbes and Epigrammes, 1555-60 stated: “I will neuer bye the pyg in the poke. Thers many a foule pyg in a feyre cloke.”

Dub Mowery is a Gospel preacher in the Church of Christ. Presently he serves as full-time evangelist for the Pittsburg Church of Christ. A native of Southeast Oklahoma, he is the author of Colloquial Sayings & Expressions (Morris Publishing, 2008)

nativeheritage@hotmail.com
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