Pigs might fly

Example in use: “When I win the lottery, I’m going to travel around the world first class!” “Yeah! And pigs might fly!”

Meaning: something which is totally impossible, the idea being described will never happen.

Possible German equivalent: Da müsste schon ein Wunder geschehen.

Possible origin: There is plenty of discussion about the origin of this idiom but many seem to agree that it first appeared in its original form in a 1616 edition of an English/Latin dictionary for children with the phrase:

“Pigs fly in the ayre with their tayles forward”

(pigs fly in the air with their tales forward)

This form of the expression was used for over 200 years and even though it appears that other animals such as snails or cows also found their way into this strange idiom, the idea of a flying pig has stood the test of time. Maybe this is because of the fact that a pig seems to be one of the most unlikely flying animals with its fat belly and its way of rummaging around in the earth for food.

In 1865, mention of flying pigs appeared in the popular Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland alongside many other unlikely animal activities and wondrous happenings – the grinning Cheshire Cat and using a flamingo to play croquet for example:

"I've a right to think," said Alice sharply... "Just about as much right," said the Duchess, "as pigs have to fly."

There is however, evidence that pigs really can fly! In 1909, in a joke to prove that it’s not impossible for pigs to fly, a famous aviator – Baron Brabazon of Tara – put a pig into a large basket and secured it to his private biplane. There’s no report about if the pig enjoyed his flight but I’m sure I can see a little smile on this famous pig’s face in the photo I found online!

might / maɪt


Welcome again to our weekly series that hopes to go behind the scenes of some rather typical English expressions.