Editor's note: This originally was published August 2012.
There are certain expressions and idioms so common to the English vernacular that we seldom give a thought to what we're really saying when we use them. We rarely stop to think how those expressions could be misunderstood by a non-native speaker. And we never give a thought to the ramifications, should anyone interpret our idioms literally.
One such expression is the proverbial "when pigs fly." We all use this phrase to identify something that will surely never happen, as in "my children will pick up all their dirty clothes, when pigs fly."
As a passenger on a recent road trip, I needed a way to pass the time. So I started to think about the myriad things identified over the years as likely to occur when pigs fly. And I realized that there are a myriad of unanticipated things that might happen in that scenario. Just for fun, I started making a list of them. Here are a few of my observations.
When pigs fly:
They'll have to communicate via ham radio.
Porky pig will actually have a reason to stutter.
The price of bacon will skyrocket.
Pork belly futures will rise.
Manure spreaders will become obsolete.
There will definitely be more overhead in pig farming.
Air traffic controllers will have to learn hog calling.
It will give a whole new meaning to heavy cloud cover.
Rain will become known as hogwash.
Fog will be referred to as pigs in a blanket.
It will give a whole new meaning to hamming it up.
Ostriches and emus will envy them.
Cows will lobby for equal privileges.
Pork barrel politics will go on the upswing.
Skydivers will literally piggyback.
Picnics will still be known as pig-outs, but for a whole different reason.
Longwinded airline pilots will be known as flying boars.
Throwing away old jewelry will be casting your pearls before swine.
An overhead camera shot will be called a pig's-eye view.
Swine flew will become the correct name for the annual epidemic.
And finally, we'll need a sty in the sky, by and by.
Yes, I know this is basically a list of puns, otherwise known as groaners. And, yes I know that puns are the lowest form of humor. My response to that is, so what.
We all laugh at puns and we all realize that a good one (not that these are good) can take some brainpower to develop. Creating a list of them, all related to a single subject, is even more of a challenge, so you may want to do it with a friend or a grandchild.
After all, medical science tells us that exercising your brain delays dementia and Alzheimers. Laughter diminishes depression and collaboration fights loneliness.
So pick your favorite idiom and ruminate on what might happen if it were taken literally.
Invite a few friends to help as part of a backyard soiree. It could become a real pig out or it could boar you to tears. Either way your family and friends will belly up to the feeding trough and maybe return the favor someday.
And that's no "pig in a poke."