“Don’t buy a pig in a poke.” The expression was first published in 1546–in English, anyway–in a book of proverbs collected by John Heywood. One place tells me that “poke” is an old Dutch word meaning “bag” or “sack” and another place tells me it derives from “poque,” French for “bag” or “sack,” so pick your language. I know my great-grandma called a sack a poke, and she was from Kentucky. What that means, I cannot say.
ANYWAY, the story goes that disreputable farmers would take pigs to the market but would substitute a cat before they handed the poke over to the buyer. If the buyer just bought the pig in the poke, a strange surprise might be waiting for the cook when the buyer got back to the kitchen. If the buyer checked and the cat escaped, he or she let the cat out of the bag.
Now, I don’t know about pigs and cats in England, France, Germany and Russia but, around here, pigs go oink and cats go meow. Pigs around here also tend to be a bit larger than cats, and have hard hooves instead of sharp claws.
Call me Sherlock, but I just have to think I would know a pig from a cat, poke or no poke. But I could be wrong.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: A character buys something in good faith and discovers he or she has received something unexpected.