The internet version of my column is different from the one which goes in the newspapers. I want to thank Nikki Childers for the fine job she does on presenting it on the We Are Mid TN site.
The Nov. 18 edition has one of my favorite animal metaphors: “Even a blind pig finds a nut once in a while.” It will be one of hundreds of such sayings in my forthcoming book, “When Pigs Fly” due out in 2020.
Sometimes this is used with hog or pig, the animal usually favored in older texts. Sometimes it is a truffle, a chestnut or an acorn. This saying infers that no matter how inept someone is at what he or she doing, that person will get lucky every once in a while and do something right.
Its origin, however, is obscure, though Jon R. Stone in “The Rutledge Book of World Proverbs” (2006) calls it Russian. It is used a lot on websites, in business, and most particularly concerning sales people who don’t adapt well to the business, and by those inclined to think gambling or playing the lottery just might pay off some day.
Versions of it have been around in English since before it appeared in print as a saying in Golden Hours, a magazine for boys and girls, in January, 1877:
“If ‘a blind pig finds an acorn now and then,’ as the saying goes, do you think we may safely say a blind hen finds corn occasionally?”
A similar proverb is “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” That one means that a normally unreliable person may occasionally give correct information, if even by accident. This one goes back to 1711 when it was used in the British magazine, The Spectator, published by Jason Addison and Richard Steele.
“If instead of running after the mode, they would continue fixed in one certain habit, the mode would come time or other overtake them, as a clock that stands still is sure to point right once in 12 hours.”
Stan St. Clair is the author of the best-selling book, “Most Comprehensive Origins of Clichés, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions.” If you would like to know the origin of a favorite expression, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.