Examples: [Collected via e-mail, April 2009]
you know the swine flu is going around and obama has had his
For years people have said that there wouldn't be a black president until pigs could fly. Obama's been in office for
Origins: Times of crisis prompt people to search for meaning as they struggle to come to terms with frightening events well beyond their power to control, or even influence. We hunt for portents to see if scary current events might have been foretold, because if they had, we can at least draw some measure of comfort from a sense of history unfolding as preordained.
President Barack Obama, the United States of America's first black president, realized his first hundred days in office on
While there is nothing inherently magical about that
Just at the tail end of those hundred days, news of a novel strain of swine flu broke. While it is still too soon to tell how virulent this incursion of H1N1 might be, or how widespread the contagion will become, the World Health Organization and many nations (including the U.S.) are taking seriously the potential for a pandemic that could cost a great many lives.
Many did not feel the U.S. was ready to elect an African-American to its highest office. Such disbelief could well have been couched in a variety of colloquial terms, including "It'll happen when pigs fly."
And yet, the U.S. did elect a black president. Also, while porkers did not actually take to the skies within his first hundred days in office, one could say that 'swine flew,' especially if a bit of license were taken with the spelling of the second word.
Prophecies sometimes employ such trickery, using one spelling of a word where another is intended, thereby leaving the meaning of the augury unclear until the unfolding of the events they supposedly pertain to.
The writings of one particularly famous seer are replete with this sort of doubletalk. The French physician and astrologer Nostradamus
If not Nostradamus, then who? Well, no one. That a well recognized idiom expressing disbelief ('When pigs fly') might have been applied to the election of a black president doesn't mean anyone actually made such a prediction, or that any utterance of that common saying in relation to such event had been meant as prognostication. No venerable psychic or seer intoned such a prophecy. While the word play ('swine flew' versus 'swine flu') is cute, it is coincidental, not the result of a fortune teller's having foreseen a looming pandemic.
Barbara "days of swine and roses" Mikkelson
Last updated: 6 May 2009