Thursday, 25 June 2009

Everything but the oink

In common with most towns, my new adoptive home has a few charity shops. A couple of them are really rather good; the Oxfam shop in particular has a rather splendid selection of books, whilst the Cancer Research establishment has a superior line in Bric a Brac. And it was in this latter shop that No.1 daughter purchased a piggy bank.

Said piggy bank has a kind of charm about it that can generally be found in china objects made in...erm...China. It has a rather smug, self satisfied look, and eyelashes that wouldn't look out of place on a L'Oreal TV ad. It is also pink and fat, which is the least you expect from a piggy bank. And it only cost her two pounds, which to my mind is something of a bargain. However, one thing does seem a little curious to me. Given that the purchase of a piggy bank generally heralds an intention to start saving money, then why begin your savings regime by splashing out cash on a china receptacle? Cash that you could have put in a drawer, a pocket, an empty jam jar, or even (heaven forfend) a bank? I recently saw a painted earthenware pot called a Terramundi (which is Latin for, I believe 'Land of the World'). It costs twenty quid, comes in several different colours and designs, and, like the piggy bank, you put your spare change in it. However, unlike the piggy bank, you have to smash it to pieces to retrieve your money when it's full. Now, let's look at the logic of this. You waste twenty pounds you could have saved buying a pot that you will ultimately destroy and will not be able to reuse. Then, you use twenty pounds that you have retrieved from the shattered Terramundi to buy another one, and the whole sad business continues, either until the company that makes the Terramundi goes bust, or you come to your senses and stick the money in a drawer as I first suggested.

It's uncertain as to why pigs became favoured as money boxes. There's a suggestion that, in the middle ages, people placed whatever spare money they had (and I doubt there was much) in a receptacle called a pygg jar. In case you're wondering, pygg was a type of orange-coloured clay. Our modern day salt pig is a living reminder of these original pyggs. It's also mooted that the piggy bank was a kind of china representation of the real animal; in earlier times, families kept a pig that was fattened on scraps until it achieved sufficient weight to be slaughtered. The piggy bank likewise hoovered up bits of spare change until it, too, was 'fat' enough to be broken open.

The pig finds its way into quite a few sayings. We use the expression 'pigs might fly' to denote something that's unlikely to happen; we call a stubborn individual 'pig-headed'; and describe someone as 'happy as a pig in muck' when they are in a particularly cheerful mood. And we mustn't forget 'bringing home the bacon', which denotes the act of working to put food on the table. Did I say bacon? Dear bloggy friends, have you any idea how many bacon-related products are out there? Apart from bacon itself, of course. You can buy bacon flavoured dental floss, toothpicks, and even mints, marketed under the Uncle Oinker name. If you should be unlucky enough to stab yourself on a toothpick, then there are plasters amusingly shaped like mini rashers. Time to go to work? Put on your bacon tie, wrap a bacon scarf around your neck and pick up your bacon briefcase. Ah! Lunchtime! I think I'll have a bacon doughnut, washed down with a nice cup of Java coffee, flavoured with bacon and maple syrup...

I seem to have become a little carried away with the bacon motif. I do apologise. But they all exist, I swear. And don't even get me started on bacon undergarments...

Have you ever wondered what sound pigs make in other countries? Well, not the sound they actually make, of course; that probably doesn't vary that much across the globe (unless, of course, you know differently!) No, I'm talking about the (supposedly) onomatopoeic word we ascribe to their grunting. For some obscure reason, oink oink has become the phrase of choice in this country. But what of the Great Abroad? Croatians would have it that pigs exclaim rok rok. In Japan, pigs go buu; or more properly, buu buu. In Thailand your average prime porker ood oods away to his heart's content, whilst his Vietnamese counterpart goes for ut it. The prize, however, goes to the French for the rather racy groin groin. (Stop press! Late entry from my good friend Punk in Writing in Sweden, where the pigs say nöff nöff).

I think the final word has to go to Sir Francis Bacon. 'Acorns were good until bread was found'. Try telling that to pigs. They love acorns.

16 comments:

SandyCalico said...

Hi Chris,
I LOL'd at the terramundi!
I've bought piggy banks for my boys to encourage saving. I started off by putting all the cash they had ever been given in them. I then decided that this would be better off in a savings account. I put the money in my purse and.. erm.. I spent it. I will open savings accounts soon. Honest!
Check out the bacon here:
http://awkwardfamilyphotos.com/2009/06/25/the-bacon-brothers/
Sandy x

Val said...

wow thanks for that - fascinating info and funny; and another aspect of our crazy crazy world! perhaps piggy banks are for the kids to keep their cash safe from well meaning parents :-) hehehe

punk in writing said...

I was raised in the same town as an organic pig farming place. I spent a lot of time looking at happy pigs from my pram, and when I got older I used to pet them.

Our pigs here is Sweden say nöff nöff. :)

chris hale said...

Sandy - Hi! Keep spending the kids' money. I do. Love the photo, BTW...whoever thought it was a good idea to dress their kids in bacon suits?

Val - Hi to you too. Please see my advice to Sandy above.

Punky - I know we have to eat them eventually (well, some of us do) but we still want them to be happy! Oh, and the nöff nöff has found its way into the post. Thank you.

Comedy Goddess said...

Very good, ending with Sir Francis BACON!! You clever man!

I remember in the '70's, women would call a man an MCP. Male Chauvinist Pig! I am not surprised that you didn't list that particular name, since I doubt anyone ever said it to you!

chris hale said...

CG - Hi!

I remember seeing MCP ties for sale in various magazines at the time. And you're absolutely right; no-one ever called me an MCP!

mo.stoneskin said...

The Terramundi business is hilarious and clearly a death trap. I'll bet the Terramundi inventer just uses a standard piggy.

chris hale said...

Mo - Good morning. There's a quirky shop in Brighton's Churchill Square that has stacks of the things. But I suspect the inventor has a Swiss account rather than a piggy!

Raph G. Neckmann said...

What charming customs, Chris! We do not have any pigs here in Giraffe World - they sound fun!

When I was a young giraffe I used to save up some of my pocket money in a ceramic Neck. This was towards special toys or books. When the Neck was full of coins I'd turn it upside down to empty out the money and rush joyously down to the shops!

Derrick said...

Hi Chris,

What a mine of information you are. I must check out the Uncle Oinker stuff and see if I can find something fetching!

Madame DeFarge said...

Hello again. I love pigs, dead or alive, all shapes and all sizes. They're just so ineffably cool. I'm reminded of A Private Function as I went through this post. A fine film

Val said...

i thought you'd like to know that i was able to use the secret language of pigs (oink oink/nuff nuff etc) recently in a conversation. thanks ;-)

chris hale said...

MDF - How's that most civil of civil servants today? But wait a moment...'Ineffably'? Um! You sweared! Not so civil after all, then!

Val - Snuffle snuffle squee! Do you not agree?

chris hale said...

Raph - I like the sound of a giraffy bank. Perhaps Derrick could stock such an item in his shop; I'm sure it would be very popular.

Derrick - Do report back on Uncle oinker. Oh, and see above re. decorative giraffy bank as a 'must have' line for the shop!

Stevyn Colgan said...

Splendid stuf as always dear boy. You and Mr Neckman might like this. .

chris hale said...

Yay Stevyn! A snip at $14.95! But I'd have to smash my Terramundi to get my hands on the cash...