Fact Check

Pig in the Road

One motorist's attempt to alert another to an upcoming traffic hazard is taken as a personal insult.

Published May 19, 1999

Claim:   One motorist's attempt to alert another to an upcoming traffic hazard is taken as a personal insult.


Example:  [Cerf, 1970]

From a rural district of England comes the story of a driver of a small sedan braking hastily as the tweedy mistress of the largest estate thereabouts came hurtling around a sharp bend in the narrow road in her large Rolls. Before he could say a word, she shouted, "PIG!" and drove on. "Fat old cow," he cried in retaliation.

Then he drove round the bend himself — and crashed head-on into the biggest pig he ever had seen.


Origins:   The first print sighting of this tale is the one quoted above, from 1970. At that time the story was set in England, a

Cartoon of the legend

land of twisty little back roads and extremely high hedges. Such a setting makes the scenario of one motorist's screaming out to another about an upcoming road hazard all the more plausible.

But as urban legends do, this one migrated to the United States. In 1984, it turned up in the Eugene Register-Guard in a form highly similar the version quoted in the example quoted (i.e., woman shouts the warning, man shouts back "You're not so great looking yourself!"). In 1988, listeners in Paul Harvey's radio audience were treated to a recounting of this tale, this time set in Oklahoma and told as a recent event. According to Harvey, an Oklahoma State Highway patrolman was driving his patrol car in the country near Waurika when he spotted a farmer jumping up and down by the roadside and shouting, "Pig! Pig!" The patrolman supposedly leaned out his patrol car's window to shout back "Redneck! Redneck!" Then, just beyond the next hill, he ran smack into a huge hog that had strayed onto the middle of the


I'm having a hard time picturing any Oklahoma farmer jumping up and down by the side of a road when he could be over the next rise rounding up the pig. As a story, it works better when it's two motorists coming together — one who has already had to swerve to avoid the porker, and another who doesn't know what's coming up. Putting a farmer into the tale causes it to lose whatever believability it ever had; even if the pig didn't belong to that particular fellow, rare is the farmer who would leave his neighbor's livestock to be run over instead of doing something about it.

Sometimes simple little urban legends work best as thinly-disguised advice, as this one does. "Don't be so quick to assume the worst," says the tale. "Not everything means what you think it does when it first lands on your ears."

An unusual take on the legend restructures it to have a different meaning, one stressing the importance of clarity of expression:

[Collected via e-mail, 2004]

A man driving along a curve in the road passes two monks. In passing the two monks cry out "The end is near!" The driver sneers and continues on down the road. After the driver screeches and screams, one monk turns to the other and says "I knew we should have yelled 'Bridge out!'"

Barbara "making the swine of the (un)cross" Mikkelson

Last updated:   7 April 2011


    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Curses! Broiled Again!

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.   ISBN 0-393-30711-5   (pp. 127-128).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Mexican Pet.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1986.   ISBN 0-393-30542-2   (p. 62).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Too Good To Be True.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.   ISBN 0-393-04734-2   (pp. 115-116).

    1.   Cerf, Bennett.   The Sound of Laughter.

    New York: Doubleday and Company, 1970   (p. 439).

    Morley, Robert.   Robert Morley's Second Book of Bricks.

    UK: Coronet Books, 1982   (p. 62).

Also told in:

    Holt, David and Bill Mooney.   Spiders in the Hairdo.

    Little Rock: August House, 1999.   ISBN 0-87483-525-9   (p. 16).

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.

    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 94).