From Snoot to Tail: Here are all the idioms about pigs!

Pigs are popular in the South, both on our farms and on our plates. The poor vegetarian is hard pressed to find so much as a collard leaf that hasn’t been seasoned with salt pork or a sliver of green tomato that hasn’t been fried in lard. And all manner of swine flesh appears on our plates — you can literally eat everything on a pig but the oink. Ok … maybe not the bones or hooves, but you know what I mean. And even when they haven’t been sacrificed for the culinary cause, our porcine pals darn are cute, clean, smart animals to have around. Shoot! We even have a grocery store named after one, the good old Piggly Wiggly.

We just flat like ‘em! And we probably identify just a little bit with them too. Pigs, like Southerners, have long been misunderstood and maligned for being dumb, dirty, and slovenly. Just like it’s not true of all of us, it’s not true about pigs. In fact, pigs have been proven to be smarter than dogs! They’re right up there with dolphins and chimpanzees. And pigs are exceptionally clean when given a chance to be, just like most folks are.

It’s no wonder hogs turn up so much in Southern speech! Here are some swine sayings:

Sweating like a pig. Actually, pigs don’t sweat because they have very few sweat glands which is why they cool themselves in mud. Hence the saying …

Happy as a pig in slop (or mud or shit). Maybe slop, and certainly a wading pool, but as we’ve learned, pigs are actually very clean which is why a real pig would turn up it’s piggy snout at being in poo. They are extremely particular about not going potty where they sleep. I mean, aren’t you?

Happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. I’ve always wondered about this one. I mean, does the pig actually have to be dead to be happy in the sunshine? Well, yes. Apparently when a pig dies, as it’s carcass bakes in the sun, it’s little piggy lips actually begin to shrink back from its teeth producing a gruesome grin. Who knew?

He looks like the north end of a southbound pig. I’m pretty sure we can all figure this one out!

It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing — it frustrates you and it annoys the pig. This is one of my favorite ways to describe an exercise in futility. Also, something I seem to do quite often. Do Re Mi Fa So La Te Do!!!!!

When you wrestle a pig you both get dirty but the pig likes it. This is a lesson in not stooping to someone else’s level. Once you get down in the muck, your opponent has already won without even trying.

Hog-killin’ weather. Cold weather. I actually wrote a whole post about this one a while back, and you can read it here.

Useless as teats on a boar hog. A boar is a male pig. So for him to have mammaries would be, well, useless. This can also describe something that has no real value.

To go hog wild. To be excessively enthusiastic about something or to be out of control. Hogs can be docile, right up until they aren’t. Then you’d better watch out. Especially for the ones who have “tushes” as my Aunt Lois used to say. Tusks.

To go whole hog. To do something in the most complete, almost excessive, way possible.

Make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Sometimes, as much as you might want to, you just can’t turn something ugly into something beautiful literally or figuratively.

To hog something. To selfishly take the most of something for yourself. And if you do this while you’re driving, that makes you a road hog. If the steering wheel fits …

Buying a pig in a poke. This one hearkens back to a switcheroo scam from the Middle Ages. Apparently meat was scare but dogs and cats were not. Enterprising ne’er-do-wells would sell a closed sack of meat to hungry and unsuspecting customers claiming that it contained a suckling pig when in reality it was just Fido or Fifi. Ick. Nevertheless, this is just a colorful way to say caveat emptor — buyer beware!

To cast pearls before swine. When you offer or give something of some value, either tangible or intangible, to someone, sometimes they just can’t or won’t appreciate it.

Living high on the hog. I always thought the “high” here was an intoxicating kind of high. Apparently, I was wrong. I’ve learned that this saying refers to the best cuts of meat on a pig, which come from the back and upper legs. If you’re eating the best cuts of meat, as opposed to the knuckles, ears, and tail, then you are, indeed, living the good life.

When pigs fly! This is a good thing to say about something that’s highly unlikely. You can calso say, In a pig’s eye!

Her ass looks like two pigs fighting in a sack. Imagery. That’s what I love the most about southernisms. If you’re not seeing this in your mind right now, there’s something wrong with you and you should go lie down until it passes.

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash