Pig in a Poke

I came across a phrase this morning and wondered about it's origins.. here it is:
Pig-in-a-poke is an idiom that refers to a confidence trick originating in the Late Middle Ages, when meat was scarce but cats were not. The scheme entailed the sale of a suckling pig in a poke (bag). The wriggling bag would actually contain a cat (not particularly prized as a source of meat) that was sold to the victim in an unopened bag. A common colloquial expression in the English language, to buy a pig in a poke is to make a risky purchase without inspecting the item beforehand. The phrase can also be applied to accepting an idea or plan without a full understanding of its basis.
Have you ever been conned in this way? Thinking that you were buying a Cadillac and getting a Chevy? Or even worse believing a lie that was just "too good to be true"? I think that most of have in our lifetimes - a 1979 oil-eating VW Rabbit comes to mind for me.. and don't ask me about that 1985 Plymouth minivan money pit.

These kinds of images cause me to ponder ways that I have been duped intellectually and emotionally. Sometimes an ideology, philosophy, or even a theology just seems too good to be true.. and usually they are. But I think what is worse is the way that delude and con ourselves. These bagged-cats seem to the be cruelest of all.. and sometimes it is years before we understand that they are not what we thought they were at all.

Can you relate? Ever been conned into buying something? Ever con yourself?


  1. Hi Bob,

    Thanks for this interesting snippet. A pig in a poke is a cat in the bag.

  2. Funny, I've heard that for years, and didn't have a clue where it originated. I enjoy that kind of trivia.

  3. Wonder if the person "who let the cat out of the bag" was someone who disclosed the scam - thus a phrase denoting someone revealing a secret? Guess I'll have to check with my friend Mr. Google!

    Very interesting, Bob.

  4. Thought I'd report back - according to several online sources this is indeed the origin of "letting the cat out of the bag."

    I learn so much from your blog, Bob. :)


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