[Ads-l] teach a pig to play a flute

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jul 21 00:30:45 UTC 2017

Thanks David. I updated the following entry "Never Attempt To Teach a
Pig To Sing; It Wastes Your Time and Annoys the Pig" by adding two
precursors and included an acknowledgement to you.


[Begin excerpt]
Great thanks to David K. Barnhart who noted that "To teach a pig to
play on a flute" was in Farmer and Henley's opus on slang.)
[End excerpt]

[ref] 1809 May, the Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Chronicle,
Edited by Sylvanus Urban, Letter to Mr. Urban from James Hall, Quote
Page 428, Printed by John Nichols and Son, London. (Google Books Full
View) link [/ref]


[Begin excerpt]
When the Greeks meant to say that a man was absurdly, foolishly, or
improperly employed, they used to say,

"He ploughs the air;
. . .
He is making clothes for fishes;
He is teaching an old woman to dance;
He is teaching a pig to play on a flute;
He catches the wind with a net;
[End except]

[ref] 1889, The Salt-Cellars: Being a Collection of Proverbs Together
with Homely Notes Theron by C. H. Spurgeon (Charles Haddon Spurgeon),
Volume 2 of 2: M To Z, Section: Proverbs and Quaint Sayings, Quote
Page 252, Passmore and Alabaster, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link


[Begin excerpt]
There's no profit in teaching a pig to play the flute.

Even if the pupil could learn, others would do the business better.
There are persons who have no capacity for learning a certain art, and
teaching it to them would be lost labour.
[End excerpt]


On Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 10:25 AM, David K. Barnhart
<dbarnhart at highlands.com> wrote:
> I found this term in Farmer & Henley under the entry _pig_.
> I have found precious little even in Google.  Evidence there suggests a
> Chinese origin, perhaps.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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