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Flying pigs and a cactus on my arm

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Flying pigs

One of the joys of working as a locum pharmacist is that one can exchange comments, jokes, tall stories and gossip with a wide variety of people. A new audience appears each day.

Everyone has their own opinion about the current state of the world and what, if anything, we can do about it. Although we may cover a wide range of subjects, the responses we hear are often quite similar.

One of us might comment: “I see the price of oil has dropped. Our fuel bills should fall significantly soon.” Or someone might say: “Perhaps the next primary care trust initiative will come without reams of time-consuming paperwork.”

Someone might even suggest: “It would be more fun doing continuing professional development if they turned it into a game. They could call it Wii-CPD.”

And one desperate soul asked the other day: “Do you think we will get a nice warm dry summer this year?” Another hoped: “We might get a decent pay rise or a good bonus after taking on all this extra work.”

Almost without exception the response includes “… and pigs might fly”. I began to wonder about the origin of this saying and whether there are there equivalent phrases in other languages.

I found that in France the reply might be “when hens have teeth”, in Spain, “when cows fly” and in China, India and Japan, “when the sun rises in the west”.

More exotically, in Venezuela it might be, “when frogs dance the flamenco”, in Russia, “when crayfish whistle on the mountains” and in Poland, apparently, “when a cactus grows on my arm”. (Where did that come from?)

Some countries are linked by the language of their early settlers. Thus, Argentinians and Italians say “when donkeys fly” and the Portuguese and Brazilians both use “on St Never’s day”.

The ancestors of the pig had lateral projections or stumps extending from the acromion process of the scapula. So perhaps evolution did consider wings to be an option.

However, the earliest recorded instance of a flying pig came when a pioneer of aviation, Lord Brabazon, carried the first live animal cargo in 1909. A crate containing a pig was strapped to a wing strut of his aeroplane.

For the record, “Pigs might fly” appears to be a traditional Scottish proverb, which was first written down in an edition of John Withal’s English-Latin Dictionary for Children, in 1586.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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