lipstick on a pig

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 2 05:25:50 UTC 2014

Excellent perfume citations, Bonnie.

Here are some other animals with lipstick: "putting lipstick on the
tiger" in 1956 and "putting lipstick on trained Polar Bears" in 1958.

Date: September 9, 1956
Newspaper: Plain Dealer
Newspaper Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Section: This Week Magazine
Article: Europe's Battle Of The Billboards
Article Author Blake Ehrlich
Start Page: 10
Quote Page: 31
Database: GenealogyBank

[Begin excerpt]
But a chap from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, top
regulatory body regarding billboards, told me, "Many persons consider
landscaped signs to be merely putting lipstick on the tiger." Leading
architect Sir Hugh Casson said of the new development: "This is the
ultimate hypocrisy."
[End excerpt]

Date: February 19, 1958
Newspaper: Greensboro Record
Newspaper Location: Greensboro, North Carolina
Article: Droodles
Author: Price
Quote Page A12
Database: GenealogyBank

[Begin excerpt]
He's now operating a string of Dance Studios throughout Alaska and is
known as the Arthur Murray of the Arctic....

Charlie's biggest problem, of course, has been trying to find girls to
act as Dance Hostesses. Up to now he's been putting lipstick on
trained Polar Bears but it isn't practical. The Bears are always
hungry and they've been eating up all of Charlie's profits. Plus a few
of his best customers.
[End excerpt]


On Fri, May 2, 2014 at 12:34 AM, Bonnie Taylor-Blake
<b.taylorblake at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Bonnie Taylor-Blake <b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: lipstick on a pig
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Thu, May 1, 2014 at 10:15 PM, Randy Alexander
> <strangeguitars at> wrote:
>> Was just watching "They Live" (1988 Movie) with my kids and was reminded of
>> this discussion when the main character was calling out a female alien:
>> "That's like pouring perfume on a pig!"
> I see that "perfume on a pig" has come up on the list a few times,
> including Grant Barrett's locating in 2008 of a 1980 usage of "you can
> clean up a pig, put a ribbon on its tail, spray it with perfume, but
> it is still a pig."
> Here a couple early sightings of "perfume on a pig" with a related
> expression tacked on at the end.  (I feel compelled to send this along
> in part because I'm fascinated by the appearance of The Fool-Killer in
> Boomer, North Carolina ca. 1920.)
> -- Bonnie
> -----------------------
> The Republican bosses at Washington are making another effort to
> whitewash "Senator" Huckleberry.  Sorter like putting perfume on a
> pig.  [From "Idiotorials," The Fool-Killer (Boomer, NC), September,
> 1922; via]
> Playing classical musical for radio listeners, said a musician the
> other day, "is like wasting Quelque Fleurs perfume on a pig."  He
> plays by ear, so maybe that's why.  [From William Moyes, "Behind the
> Mike," The Morning Oregonian (Portland), 31 October 1932, p. 4; via
> Lots of so-called culture is just so much paint and perfume on a pig
> pen.  [From "Rip Saw Dust," The Pella (Iowa), 29 December 1904, p. 2;
> via]
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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