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Pig and Whistle
Posted: 08 October 2009 03:31 AM   [ Ignore ]
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The resurrection of the pettifogger thread (and the link following it inspired in me) leads me to ask after the origin of the mythical pub name Pig and Whistle.  My understanding is that there are, in fact, no British pubs with this name but that it has somehow become a generic name for some little backwater local.  Any interesting history here or is it all just that old standby, orig. unk.?

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Posted: 08 October 2009 05:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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From “The Dictionary of Pub Names” Words Worth Editions 2006 (which was rubbished last time I mentioned it, so fwiw):

Pig and Whistle, Littlehempston, near Tomes.  This name is neither as common as is normally supposed nor is it very old.  When Lilleywhite examined 17,000 London signs up to the nineteenth century he was unable to find a single example of Pig and Whistle.  We estimate that in the 1980s about ten British pubs are so identified.  The Oxford English Dictionary gives several examples of the phrase “pigs and whistles” dating from 1681.  “To go to pigs and whistles” at one time meant “to be ruined”.  ... Those not satisfied with such an explanation might like to play around with an association of “pig” as in Sussex pig, a drinking vessel shaped like the animal, and expressions like “wet one’s whistle” meaning to have a drink, current since the seventeenth century.  The bar-room etymologists tend to favour a derivation from “peg o’ wassail”, an unrecorded phrase which would, if it had ever existed mean something like “a measure of good health”.  Derivations from pys and housel, pightle and wassail, piggens and whatever are not to be taken seriously.

There are also pubs called “Pig and Thistle” and “Peg and Whistle”.

Here’s a link to a Pig and Whistle sign.

OED:

pig’s whistle n. orig. and chiefly U.S. (a) (now rare), a very short space of time, an instant (cf. PIG’S WHISPER n. 1); (b) a thing of little value or significance.

1859 J. R. BARTLETT Dict. Americanisms (ed. 2) (at cited word), ‘I’ll do so in less than a *pig’s whistle’. 1935 E. POUND in Esquire (U.S. ed.) May 31/2 Prof. Pigou..has taken to Alpinism, and says he dun’t care a pig’s whistle. 1994 Washington Post (Nexis) 27 Sept. A20 Neither zone is worth a pig’s whistle if it’s not enforced with airpower.

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Posted: 08 October 2009 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Well done, Eliza! A comprehensive response. I especially enjoyed the sign image.

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Posted: 08 October 2009 10:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thank you, lh.  Here’s the fuller OED entry on pig n.2 referred to in the Pub Names citation:

Now chiefly Sc. and Eng. regional (north.).

A. n.2

1. a. A pot, pitcher, jar, or other vessel, usually made of earthenware; a crock; (in pl.) crockery or earthenware generally.

c1450 Alphabet of Tales (1905) II. 340 Euerilk day..was broght vnto hym a lofe of bread and a pygg with wyne. 1488 in T. Dickson Accts. Treasurer Scotl. (1877) I. 79 Deliuerit be Dene Robert Hog, channoune of Halirudhous, to the Thesaurare, tauld in presens of the Chancellare, Lord Lile..in a pyne pig of tyn. a1522 G. DOUGLAS tr. Virgil Æneid VII. xiv. 25 Furth of ane payntit pyg, quhair as he stude, A gret river defundand or a flude. 1588 in W. Greenwell Wills & Inventories Reg. Durham (1860) II. 312, j litle wood coup, j paer of muster quernes of wood, j litle wood pigge, iiij wood dishes, j earthen panne. 1631 Edinb. Test. LV. f. 63v, in Dict. Older Sc. Tongue (at cited word), Of reddie money in ane littell pynt pig xxij lib. 1673 Wedderburn’s Vocab. 13 (Jam.) Urna, a pitcher or pig. 1724 in A. Ramsay Tea-table Misc. (1733) II. 181 A pig, a pot, and a kirn there ben. a1774 R. FERGUSSON Poems (1779) II. 14 A’ his china pigs are toom. 1818 SCOTT Heart of Mid-Lothian xii, in Tales of my Landlord 2nd Ser. IV. 256 It wad be better laid out on yon bonny grass holms, than lying useless here in this auld pigg. 1899 J. SPENCE Folk-lore 239 I’ll creep me up an’ kirn da tip o’ milk, sae dat du gets a aer o’ druttle i’ da pig. 1947 J. B. SALMOND Toby Jug ii, In certain hollows there still lay bits of broken ‘pigs’pieces of earthenware glazed to brilliant blues, or in a pattern of pink roses. 1980 D. K. CAMERON Willie Gavin xii. 122 Often they were preserved for the winter..in a big pig or earthenware jar.
b. pigs and whistles n. fragments, pieces; odds and ends, trivial things. to go to pigs and whistles: to fall into ruin or disrepair. Now rare.

1681 S. COLVIL Mock Poem II. 66 Discoursing of their Pigs and Whistles, And strange experiments of Mussels [note, Pigs and whistles, Gimcraks]. 1794 Har’st Rig xlviii. 18 For he to pygs and whistles went, And left the land. 1822 J. GALT Sir A. Wylie lxxxiii, The late Laird o’Wylie gaed last year a’ to pigs and whistles. 1862 J. W. CARLYLE Lett. III. 125 Curious what a curative effect a railway journey has on me always, while you it makes pigs and whistles of! 1890 J. SERVICE Notandums 1 The place a’ gaun to pigs and whussles. 1927 D. F. BRUCE Dimsie Goes Back viii. 83 She’s sure to think the place has gone to pigs and whistles since her generation departed. 2001 Herald (Glasgow) (Nexis) 24 Sept. 24 His life went to pigs and whistles, courtesy of fame and fortune, drink and drugs.

and a possible link for whistle:

2. colloq. A jocular name for the mouth or throat as used in speaking or singing; chiefly in phr. to wet (erron. whet) one’s whistle, to take a drink.

c1386 CHAUCER Reeve’s T. 235 So was hir ioly whistle wel y-wet.

But who knows?

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Posted: 09 October 2009 02:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Thank you, Eliza.  Well done!

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Posted: 09 October 2009 05:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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On the farm, we used to call the portable compressed air tank an “air pig”.  I never really knew why.  I wonder if the name might be derived from the sense that Eliza posted?

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Posted: 09 October 2009 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Thank you Eliza for digging out those fascinating sections from the OED.

When I was very little, I remember that my grandmother (in Aberdeenshire) always referred to stoneware hot water bottles as ‘bed pigs’. I always imagined it was because they were rather pig shaped and had no idea of the older and broader sense of pig. (Bed pigs needed to be treated with great caution and respect as Grandma always heated the empty bottle in the oven before filling it from a boiling kettle - very hazardous to small toes!)

donkeyhotay: I’ve also come across ‘air pig’ used both for portable compressed air tanks and for portable compressors. It was ‘explained’ to me that it was because air tanks are pig shaped. If they were horizontal tanks I could just about accept that but all the ones I’ve seen were either vertical tanks or squat drum-shaped things. I suspect that tracking down the history of a colloquial term like ‘air pig’ might be quite difficult, but the possibility of an origin in ‘pig’=’container’ would explain a lot if it turned out to be true. (Presumably ‘air pig’=’compressor’ could well just be an extension of the tank sense in that one can easily substitute for the other.)

I’ve not come across anything else with sense of ‘pig’=’container’ in an engineering context. Anyone else know one?

(I’m aware of ‘pig’ in the sense of a thing you send down a pipeline to separate different fluids being transported through it, but that doesn’t sound very containery.)

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Posted: 09 October 2009 07:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Yes, “pig” is a jargon term for a container used to ship hazardous materials. I ran across it all the time in my arms control days when we were shipping radioactive materials around and out of the former Soviet Union. I always assumed the name came from the pig-like shape of the containers, but there may be a connection with the earthenware vessels.

Some websites that use the term:

http://www.biodex.com/radio/pet/pet_794feat.htm

http://www.rpdinc.com/html/pet_shipping_system_for_vial_p.html

http://www.osti.gov/bridge/servlets/purl/10118815-hrJxGd/webviewable/10118815.pdf

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Posted: 09 October 2009 08:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I came across this citation in google books which suggests that a “Pig and Whistle” existed in 1813.

This may be the Bullock Smithy referred to in that citation:

Stagecoaches would stop at Bullock Smithy to change horses and for the refreshment of the passengers. Coaching Inns such as The Rising Sun, Red Lion and The Grapes were built to cater for these people.

Around 1750, Bullock Smithy became an important posting hall and John Wesley described it as ‘One of the most famous villages in the country for all manner of wickedness. It is thought he was referring to gambling, cock fighting and bull and dog fighting.

The name Bullock Smithy was changed to Hazel Grove in 1836.

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Posted: 12 October 2009 01:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Excellent research, Eliza - I find the idea of the name being derived from the expression “to go to pigs and whistles: to fall into ruin or disrepair” as convincing as any, since it matches other such pub names as the Rats’ Castle, where the origin is doubtless a locals’ nickname for premises that looked shabby or in disrepair. The Pubfinder site finds 19 pubs called Pig & Whistle in England, from Cumbria to Devon, so it’s found widely but not frequently (about on the same frequency as pubs called The Pineapple, for example, which are 14 in number, according to Pubfinder). The only P&W I know the history of, in Aston, near Stevenage, Hertfordshire, was called The Boot until 1956, and was evidently renamed because the new owner/landlord wanted a more “memorable” name. Today it would probably becalled the Vat and Fiddle (note to leftpondians - VAT is walue-added tax, and a VAT fiddle is ... well, you’ve worked that out yourselves.)

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Posted: 12 October 2009 02:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Zythophile - 12 October 2009 01:08 AM

(note to leftpondians - VAT is value-added tax, and a VAT fiddle is ... well, you’ve worked that out yourselves.)

This Leftpondian knew VAT already, but hasn’t worked out what a VAT fiddle is, unless it’s a fudging on one’s tax obligations.

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Posted: 13 October 2009 03:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Faldage - 12 October 2009 02:37 AM

Zythophile - 12 October 2009 01:08 AM
(note to leftpondians - VAT is value-added tax, and a VAT fiddle is ... well, you’ve worked that out yourselves.)

This Leftpondian knew VAT already, but hasn’t worked out what a VAT fiddle is, unless it’s a fudging on one’s tax obligations.

A VAT fiddle is, for example, as described here, importing goods VAT-free, selling them to a retailer at a price including VAT, and then disappearing before you give the sum you’ve charged for VAT to the taxman, thus giving yourself extra, albeit illegal, profit.

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Posted: 07 September 2010 08:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Pig and whistle is a popular name for British pubs.

Origin:
The ‘Pig and Whistle’ is an archetypal pub name and is as likely to crop up in Older England costume dramas as are men in tights and buxom serving wenches. There are several authentic old ‘Pig and Whistle’ pubs in the UK, but the name was in reality never commonplace. Dunkling and Wright’s Wordsworth Dictionary of Pub Names, 1994, estimated that there were just 10 pubs of that name in the UK in the 1980s. That was before the opening of the many theme pubs and restaurants throughout the world that have appropriated the name.

Like many old pubs names, for example ‘The Dog and Duck’, ‘The Goat and Compasses’, the derivation of ‘The Pig and Whistle’ is uncertain. There are several suggested origins. Most of these propose that the ‘pig’ part of the name derives from the name of a drinking vessel or container. The names given are variously, ‘peg’ (a set of pins fixed at intervals in a drinking vessel), ‘piggin’ (a wooden drinking vessel or ladle), although most seem to have missed the rather more obvious ‘pig’ (an earthenware pot or pitcher).

The ‘whistle’ element is harder to pin down. ‘Wassail’ has been suggested. This is the salutation used in toasting a person’s health - the reply being ‘drink-hail’. Wassail is also the name of the spiced ale that was drunk on Twelfth-night and Shakespeare referred to this in Macbeth, 1605:

Will I with wine and wassail so convince
That memory, the warder of the brain

fruits
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[ Edited: 27 September 2010 08:15 PM by mrk1986 ]
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Posted: 07 September 2010 11:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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There’s one in Brisbane, Australia.
Though it often gets called The Piss and Wiggle.

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Posted: 08 September 2010 04:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Salt containers of a certain type are called salt pigs, origin of “pig” uncertain.

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Posted: 08 September 2010 04:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Pig is used to mean a wide variety of earthenware pots. The OED has an entire entry on this meaning: pig, n.2 and adj. As Eliza says, the origin is uncertain, but it likely originates from the rounded pots resembling the animal. Use of the word in this sense dates to the mid-fifteenth century. The word piggin, meaning the same thing only made of wood, appears a few decades earlier.

The OED also has this in that entry for pig:

A.1.b. pigs and whistles n. fragments, pieces; odds and ends, trivial things. to go to pigs and whistles: to fall into ruin or disrepair. Now rare.
1681 S. COLVIL Mock Poem II. 66 Discoursing of their Pigs and Whistles, And strange experiments of Mussels [note, Pigs and whistles, Gimcraks]. 1794 Har’st Rig xlviii. 18 For he to pygs and whistles went, And left the land. 1822 J. GALT Sir A. Wylie lxxxiii, The late Laird o’Wylie gaed last year a’ to pigs and whistles. 1862 J. W. CARLYLE Lett. III. 125 Curious what a curative effect a railway journey has on me always, while you it makes pigs and whistles of! 1890 J. SERVICE Notandums 1 The place a’ gaun to pigs and whussles. 1927 D. F. BRUCE Dimsie Goes Back viii. 83 She’s sure to think the place has gone to pigs and whistles since her generation departed. 2001 Herald (Glasgow) (Nexis) 24 Sept. 24 His life went to pigs and whistles, courtesy of fame and fortune, drink and drugs.

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