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Porkopolis a metropolis? In a pig's eye!

By ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia
 

In a pig's eye is an American rhyming slang phrase meaning That's a lie, or I don't believe you. We Aussies have a similar phrase, referring to the rear end of the porcine anatomy.

How would you like to live in a town called Pig's Eye? Some of its early settlers became so tired of being ridiculed that they changed its comical name to a far more respectable one - Saint Paul. It's now the capital and stately state capital of Minnesota, USA.

But Pig's Eye lives on, thanks to Pig's Eye beer and the pig mascot of St. Paul's baseball team. And the Twin Cities' (St. Paul and Minneapolis) biggest sewage treatment plant is called the Pig's Eye Plant.

How come Pig's Eye? "Back in 1838, about four miles south of Fort Snelling on the banks of the Mississippi River, sat Fountain Cave," says the Pig's Eye Brewing Company.

"Early explorers stopped to fill their canteens with the artesian spring water that ran freely from the mouth of the cave. Inside lived Pierre Parrant, an ornery old character with one eye serviceable. His other eye was marble-hued, crooked, with a sinister white ring around the pupil, giving a piggish expression to his sodden, low features.

"Parrant opened trade as a bootlegger, selling his homemade spirits. As legend has it, he did a thriving business and built the area's first log cabin.

"One day, in 1839, a Frenchman named Edmund Brisette was seated at a table in Parrant's hovel ready to write a letter to a friend. Geography puzzled the writer. Where should he date a letter from a place without a name?

"He looked up inquiringly to Parrant and was met by the dead, cold glare of that eye fixed upon him....... in jest, Brisette dated the letter from Pig's Eye...... and that was the first name of the city which later became St. Paul, Minnesota."

Pig's Eye's Notepad says "Our town was known as Pig's Eye, Lambert's Landing, and finally St. Paul. This is when Pig's Eye Parrant's tavern was the watering hole for river men serving on Louis Robert's steamboats, and the population consisted of fur trappers, Native Americans, discharged soldiers, and lots of other folks with itchy feet and lofty dreams. The muddy swamp they settled is today one of the most pleasant and liveable cities in the United States."

Dennis Hauth and his wife, Marilyn, have supplied mascots to the St. Paul Saints baseball team for the past 15 years. Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) Pioneer Press columnist Bob Sansevere asked Dennis about this year's mascot.

Dennis said the three-week-old piglet weighed about 10 pounds. and measured four inches in height and 10 inches in length. By the end of the season, he would weigh 150 to 160 pounds and would probably be about 2 feet tall and 4 feet long. In three years he would hit 1,400 to 1,500 pounds.

Asked what had become of Hammy, last year's mascot, Dennis said, "I don't know exactly where he went. We marketed him out and gave him a big kiss and hug before he left. He was in that 700-pound range. Pigs are just like people. They get arthritis. He was getting arthritis in his front legs."

The Saints' original mascot, Saint, was Dennis's all-time favorite. "We did more strange things with him than I ever could have dreamt of doing.," he recalled. "For one thing, I put him on a motorcycle and he went motorcycle riding."

Another American city, Cincinnati, Ohio, was known as Porkopolis (although poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called it Queen). in the 19th century when pork-packing houses sprouted up all across the Ohio River basin. By 1854, it had become one of the largest cities in the United States. Its salt pork was shipped all over the world - even supplying ships of the British navy and Queen Victoria's dinner table.

The first annual Porkopolis BBQ Fest took place in 2001 in the shadow of a Cincinnati Gateway sculpture by Andrew Leicester featuring "the famous four flying pigs." Joanna Schmersal, the 2001 Ohio Pork Industry Queen, judged a hog-calling competition.

The Porkopolis website displays a 34c. U.S. commemorative stamp showing Porky Pig as a mail carrier wearing a leather U.S. mailbag and standing near a weathered wooden mailbox.

And that's not in a pig's eye!

 

IN A PIG'S EYE

Whether the originator of the saying meant that a poor idea was something to put in a pig's eye or that it would look bad to a pig's eye is a matter of speculation. As an expression of scorn the expression was picked up in 1872 by Petroleum V. Nasby (David Locke) in one of his satirical newspaper columns: 'A poetical cotashun.which.wuz, -- 'Kum wun, kim all, this rock shel fly from its firm base - in a pig's eye.'
-- "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

If you want to see what a pig's eye looks like, it's shown on the website of the Pig's Eye Pub in Hartford, Connecticut.

THE PIG'S EYE PUB

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Story first posted June 2007

Copyright 2007

Eric Shackle

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