sharp words (striped pig)

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Fri Mar 28 15:10:04 UTC 2008

        SILENCE. -- In Fulton street, not one hundred miles from the Herald office, and on the same side, there lives a big little man, who keeps a hotel.  ***  He comes up as one of the Puritan striped pig fools that New England is rife with, a mere yellow pup; avoid him as you would the dog vomit.
        New York Daily Globe, March 6, 1849, p. 2, col. 5

The "striped pig" was a dodge of the sort that's now remembered in the expression "blind pig", for a low drinking place -- actually, not remembered by many these days, I suppose.
In any event, the "striped pig" was the original form.  I had seen an newspaper report on it, when it was a novelty, and had thought I'd made a note, but I can't find it now.  The dodge was: at a country fair, probably in Connecticut, a man who couldn't get a license to sell liquor set up a tent under a banner "See the Striped Pig, only 10 cents."  Once in, the pig turned out to be a standard model pig, with stripes painted on.  But, for free, the promoter gave a glass of rum or brandy to all of his customers.  He did very good business.
This so tickled the folks at the time that there was a novel written about it: The History of the "Striped Pig". Boston, 1838.
I dare say that a "Puritan striped pig fool" = a hypocrite.  This same paper, a month or so earlier, had summarized a theological debate as to whether peaches preserved in brandy were kosher (in the Puritan sense of the word, of course).  The conclusion was, that peaches in brandy were kosher if the container was opaque; if they were in a glass container, so that people could see the brandy, then they were most definitely not.  A  Puritan striped pig fool wouldn't allow liquor to be sold openly, or openly go into a place where it was being sold, but he didn't mind going into a tent ostensibly to see a striped pig, and there drink a glass of free booze.
There's nothing in the sentences I haven't copied that makes clear why the editor loathed this hotel keeper so, what exactly he was hypocritical about.
A few years before this, a woman was arrested and jailed in Connecticut, for travelling on the Sabbath.  She was going to visit her father.
These are my ancestors, by the way, on my mother's side.  It's just as well that they don't know what the breed has come to.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list