Let the Cat Out of the Bag

This post explains the origin of the phrase, "let the cat out of the bag". It dates back to the 18th century and refers to a market day trick. Piglets were taken to market in a small bag. The con man or trickster would put a cat in the bag instead of a pig. When and if the buyer insisted on seeing the pig the seller would say that the pig might escape if he opened the bag. If the cat did escape (I hope many did) the con man's game was up, he was exposed and he had let the cat out of the bag (meaning in modern parlance, disclosing a secret).



Another old phrase is linked to this one, "Never buy a pig in a poke". Both are rarely used today, the former is more current than the latter, however. The word "poke" refers to the bag in which the cat (or pig was placed). The phrase is saying that a buyer should not trust a seller of a pig when the pig is kept in the bag (or poke).



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