Talk:Pig in a poke

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Rats and Cats[edit]

What do you think of removing the phrase "But apparently rats and cats were not." It seems a bit non-scholarly. 71.215.217.196 18:54, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

Agreed, plus what relevance do rats have to the topic anyway? It doesn't say rats could be used in place of cats later in the article. MaxKnight 01:42, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

Cat o' nine tails legend[edit]

Removed text stating that "letting the cat out of the bag" is related to the cat o' nine tails. Apart from the fact that it's hard to see how the phrase would have acquired its current meaning if the cat in question were a whip, there is no evidence for this derivation. See this discussion for example. Éamonn McManus 13:41, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

I think two distinct expressions are being confused here. There's "letting the cat out of the bag" which, has the meaning and likely origin you describe here; and there's "the cat is out of the bag", which means that something bad is about to happen and refers to the cat o' nine tails. Anyway, that's the way it was explained to me. AldaronT/C 02:39, 21 June 2007 (UTC)
The added part on the mainpage about "no room to swing a cat" referring to floggings being carried out on the gundeck is wrong - at least as it applies to the Royal Navy. Floggings were traditionally carried out at a grating rigged to the fall of the quaterdeck, not below decks as this section implies. 62.196.17.197 (talk) 09:42, 30 May 2014 (UTC)

Other phrases[edit]

Is this actually the origin of the "left holding the bag" phrase? It seems perfectly logical (and the best explanation I can find) - but every other source I can find on the 'net seems to quote this article: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-lef1.htm which quite thoroughly contradicts it. For what it's worth, the article in question does a very poor job of actually explaining its definition of the origin and sounds like conjecture, but a few more sources or a direct citation to verify the information is called for. Tofof 05:53, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

The explanation given in WorldWideWords is basically right. The cops are coming, your gangmates have given you the bag of swag -- or in the more recent U.S. version, of contraband drugs -- to hold and have split the scene, abandoning you to take the full blame. I can't recall any citations at the moment, but I've seen it happen a time or two (don't ask!) --Rick Drake 03:21, 16 November 2007 (UTC)

Origin of "cat out of the bag"[edit]

This article stated: This is also the origin of the expressions: "Let the cat out of the bag" meaning 'to reveal that which is secret'.

However, the article for the Cat o' Nine tails suggested that this torture weapon, kept in a bag, is the origin for said expression. Which one is it? Seems to me one of them is wrong, or maybe we'll never know for sure. But in that case, the doubt must be expressed and neither article should suggest to be sure about it. That's why I did a minor edit (see history). Greetings, RagingR2 19:40, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

It's quite clear to me: The cat that's been (or that you're being told not to) let out of the bag, is a live one, the one that's in the poke, being passed off as a pig to the unsuspecting buyer-about-to-be.
When you're talking about the Cat o' Nine tails you might say it is "out of the bag" but it cannot be "let" out of the bag; it's inanimate...
--Rick Drake 03:34, 16 November 2007 (UTC)
That argument does not track. People often anthropomorphize inanimate things. Pop etymologies are often semi-logical and satisfying, but that doesn't mean that they are correct. That said, the explanation here certainly 'seems' more likely. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 143.239.96.226 (talk) 16:50, 1 July 2010 (UTC)

Orgin of sucker?[edit]

Is this the origin of "sucker", meaning a looser? How about "suck" as in "this sucks!"? --Apoc2400 (talk) 17:17, 10 October 2008 (UTC)

No, that's short for cocksucker.

"The cat's in the bag!"[edit]

This? — Nahum Reduta [talk|contribs] 06:07, 9 November 2008 (UTC)

Thai version of trick?[edit]

I have removed the Thai language version as it appears to bear no relation to either the trick or the phrase. Rubensni (talk) 19:21, 10 September 2009 (UTC)

Gold Rush[edit]

The gold rush explanation has an air of original research, and doesn't explain why similar phrases appears in so many European languages. 93.96.236.8 (talk) 11:26, 14 May 2011 (UTC)

"Poke" is a current expression in the USA?[edit]

I'm a middle-aged American, reasonably well-read and well-educated, and I've never heard the word "poke" used to mean a small bag, except for the phrase "pig in a poke", which I came to Wikipedia to research. Rclocher3 (talk) 16:27, 28 September 2012 (UTC)

I don't think the word on its own is used anywhere nowadays. Centuries ago it was used in Europe, the same phrase existing in many languages. No idea if it was every used in North America.
.--Gronky (talk) 05:55, 22 November 2013 (UTC)
It's still used in parts of the South. --Khajidha (talk) 00:32, 21 November 2017 (UTC)

Ambiguous sentence[edit]

The article reads: The bag, sold unopened, would actually contain a cat or dog, which was substantially less valuable as a source of meat.

At first, I replaced "would actually contain" with "actually used to contain" because it looked like the second conditional, and I thought it was not. Then my edit was reverted. But the role of "would" is unclear here. Does it express repeated actions in the past or is it the second conditional? The sentence in the current form can be interpreted in many ways, for example:

  1. If the bag had been sold unopened, it actually would have contained a cat or dog,...
  2. The bag, which was sold unopened, actually used to contain a cat or dog,...
  3. Some bags was sold unopened, and they could actually contain a cat or dog,...

Which case refers to the article? 85.193.199.86 (talk) 04:02, 3 September 2017 (UTC)

Honestly, I'm not seeing how you read that with any other meaning, & none of your proposals is strictly correct. IMO, it's clearly saying the bag, in fact, contained a cat or dog & not the promised item, but because it was sold unopened, that could not be known until it was opened. (And do not change the sentence to phrase it that way; that's enormously too wordy.) TREKphiler any time you're ready, Uhura 22:58, 3 September 2017 (UTC)
My sentences are not proposals at all. They were meant to provide explanations only here - in our talk, and are wordy only to be clear and unambiguous. To get back to the subject - according to you, the bag was actually sold. In such case we don't need the second conditional. What we need is something that describes repeated actions in the past. I used "used to" as a more precise construction than "would". Unfortunately, my edit has been reverted.
PS. You have changed my post, and made a mess. Already corrected. 85.193.199.86 (talk) 01:37, 4 September 2017 (UTC)
"actually used to contain" is bad English, and more ambiguous than "would actually contain". I'm not even sure what you mean by "the second conditional". "would actually contain" is good English grammar, and in the proper tense for the paragraph. - BilCat (talk) 07:10, 4 September 2017 (UTC)


You wrote:

  • "actually used to contain" is bad English, and more ambiguous than "would actually contain".

But why? We can say, for example:

  • For years these water bottles actually used to contain wine.

What ambiguity can you read into it? This sentence is absolutely unambiguous, even without reference to the past:

  • These water bottles actually used to contain wine.

On the other hand, "would" cannot be used to refer to past states. So the sentence:

  • For years these water bottles would actually contain wine.

is ungrammatical. However, I suppose that our sentence:

  • "The bag, sold unopened, would actually contain a cat or dog, which was substantially less valuable as a source of meat."

does not say about repeated actions in the past, but about the possible future result. In other words it's the second conditional. In such case we should replace "which was" with "which is", right? However, now our new, grammatically correct sentence suggests that the bag contains either a cat or dog while it may well contain a pig. So let's change it to:

  • "The bag, sold unopened, could actually contain some different animal, for example a cat or dog, which is substantially less valuable as a source of meat."

I am curious about your opinion. 85.193.199.86 (talk) 02:34, 5 September 2017 (UTC)

No, it's not a second conditional statement. "Actually used to contain" is incorrect, because we don't actually have the bag, as in your example about "these water bottles". My knowledge of grammatical terms is lacking, but using "would" in this context is proper English grammar. Check out English modal verbs#Past forms, where "would" is used in the preterite/"future-in-the-past" usage. I think that's what we have here. - BilCat (talk) 03:35, 5 September 2017 (UTC)
Can you please answer my absolutely essential question? The article reads:
The bag, sold unopened, would actually contain a cat or dog, which was substantially less valuable as a source of meat.

Is the above sentence talking about repeated events in the past or a hypothetical future situation? You see, I am not a native English speaker, but I would like to understand this sentence. Who are you editing this Wikipedia for? I am just your reader. Or imagine that I am a 6 year old kid. Could you explain that sentence in very simple words? I would be very grateful. 85.193.242.133 (talk) 16:00, 5 September 2017 (UTC)

It's talking about repeated events in the past. I'm not the person to explain it on a six-year old's level, and English Wikipedia isn't supposed to written on that level anyway. You might try the Simple English Wikipedia article on this topic, and see if that help's your understanding any better. If that doesn't help, you could ask at the The Help Desk. - BilCat (talk) 16:24, 5 September 2017 (UTC)
Thank you for your help. Now we can go further. Well, it's not that I do not understand such a trivial concept which our article describes. My only problem is grammar - which should be perfect in any encyclopedia.
The verb "contain" is stative, and therefore we cannot use "would" with "contain" to talk about repeated past actions. Only "used to" is possible when we talk about past states. So, if "actually used to contain" is "bad English" (why?), please propose something better that uses "used to". 85.193.242.133 (talk) 19:06, 5 September 2017 (UTC)
The grammar isn't the problem, but only your ability to understand it. I linked to the Simple English article so that you could see an alternative English rendering of the concept, in hopes that it would help you understand this grammatical consruction. However, you are still missing something grammatical here, and I don't know what it is exactly. I think you're hung up on using "would" to describe something that occured in the past. You need to find someone who can help you understand it before you suggest changes to grammar that you clearly don't understand.
The "used to contain" wording is incorrect in this context. I can't give you the exact grammar reason, but it is. Partly it's because "used to contain" would mean that the bag didn't contain a cat or dog when the person received the bag.
I suggest you try the Wikipedia:Reference desk/Language. as it is watched by people who can answer specific questions in their area of expertise, but who can't necessarily watch every individual article on Wikipedia for questions like this. - BilCat (talk) 20:01, 5 September 2017 (UTC)

BilCat wrote:

  • The grammar isn't the problem, but only your ability to understand it.

Not an argument. I might question your ability to understand it as well. I happen to be a computer geek with hundreds of thousands of lines of code in my career. In addition to this I also love philosophy, so don't worry about my ability of understanding anything.

  • I linked to the Simple English article...

Oh, please. I'm not interested in Simple English Wiki. Your explanations were so vague and inconsistent that eventually I decided to use the "6yo kid" argument, but it was a kind of intellectual provocation.

  • you are still missing something grammatical here, and I don't know what it is exactly.

"something"? You "don't know"? Are you serious?

  • You need to find someone who can help you...

Just the opposite. You are a native speaker but you also need some logic to understand anything. Your problem with logic became clear to me when you couldn't understand my (very simple) example with bottles.

  • "used to contain" would mean that the bag didn't contain a cat or dog when the person received the bag.

Given your logic, if "X used to contain Y", then "X did NOT contain Y". Of course, sometimes X did NOT contain Y - in our case: the bag contained a pig, but it doesn't change anything. Is this what you meant?

In conclusion, unlike my proposed version, the existing version is ungrammatical, and I have excellent reliable sources to back it up. In contrast, you have no real arguments, only empty words and some vague statements. 85.193.242.133 (talk) 01:28, 6 September 2017 (UTC)

My statement regarding your "understanding" was limited to the statement under dispute, and not an insult to your general intelligence. Again, the statement under dispute is good English grammar, and doesn't need to be changed to bad grammar. Another user concurred with the original wording, but has wisely stayed out of further discussion, as I should have. - BilCat (talk) 05:23, 6 September 2017 (UTC)
I also concur with the original wording. I do "worry about [your] ability of understanding anything" as the grammar in that statement is incorrect. Having a long career of writing hundreds of thousands of lines of code (as I do) is not, in my experience, a guarantee of anything, including the ability to be civil and assume good faith. Bazza (talk) 14:35, 6 September 2017 (UTC)