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According to M. Navratilova

"The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed."

Alas, I was not able to understand the above quote, then I consulted the ODE, which says:

Involvement: The fact or condition of being involved with or participating in something.

Commitment: The state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.

But, after reading those definitions, I still don't understand.

So, what do they mean 'chicken is involved' and 'pig is committed'?

picture of M. Navratilova on tennis court

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This is a non-standard definition of "commitment", using a bad metaphor (both animals participate, but neither does so voluntarily, and the only real difference is that the chicken survives). You should not use it as a guide to English. – Beta Aug 2 '14 at 23:32
+1 Great quote. I'm definitely going to steal this :) – Araucaria Dec 19 '14 at 12:37
It will help users if you clarify what is still unclear to you about this saying!! – Josh61 Dec 19 '14 at 14:36
How is the picture at all relevant to the question? – March Ho Aug 25 at 22:24
@March Ho the picture is whom was quoted by the OP – user662852 Aug 26 at 22:15

3 Answers 3

The metaphor here is that since the chicken gives up its eggs to make ham and eggs, it is not sacrificing itself for the meal, but still contributes to the meal and so is involved. By contrast, the pig must sacrifice its flesh (the ham) and hence must be committed to producing the meal.

The point of the metaphor, as I take it, is to emphasize the different levels of emphasis implied by saying you're "involved" in something as opposed to "committed" to it. Presumably sacrificing your own flesh would take much more than simple involvement!

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+1 - it should also be noted explicitly that this is a bit of a joke. Calling the pig committed is a understatement. – Telastyn Aug 2 '14 at 20:53
... Yes, this is another example of choosing particular non-overlapping senses for the words concerned, when they are (in this case just about) synonyms: involved 5. a. Emotionally committed: He joined their organization but never really got involved. [AHD] – Edwin Ashworth Aug 2 '14 at 22:48

I grew up hearing (and reading) a similar story from Aesop for Children (1919), a fable called "The Sheep and the Pig":

One day a shepherd discovered a fat Pig in the meadow where his Sheep were pastured. He very quickly captured the porker, which squealed at the top of its voice the moment the Shepherd laid his hands on it. You would have thought, to hear the loud squealing, that the Pig was being cruelly hurt. But in spite of its squeals and struggles to escape, the Shepherd tucked his prize under his arm and started off to the butcher's in the market place.

The Sheep in the pasture were much astonished and amused at the Pig's behavior, and followed the Shepherd and his charge to the pasture gate.

"What makes you squeal like that?" asked one of the Sheep. "The Shepherd often catches and carries off one of us. But we should feel very much ashamed to make such a terrible fuss about it like you do."

"That is all very well," replied the Pig, with a squeal and a frantic kick. "When he catches you he is only after your wool. But he wants my bacon! gree-ee-ee!"

[Moral:] It is easy to be brave when there is no danger.

Both in this fable and in the pig and chicken fable, the crux of the matter is the extreme, existential difference in what is at stake for the characters involved.

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The fable of The Chicken and The Pig is generally used to refer to the commitment to a project or cause.

  • The fable was referenced to define two types of project members by the scrum agile management system: pigs, who are totally committed to the project and accountable for its outcome, and chickens, who consult on the project and are informed of its progress.

  • *This analogy is based upon the pig being able to provide bacon (a sacrificial offering, for which the pig must die in order to provide) versus a chicken which provides eggs (non-sacrificial).

The fable also is used as an analogy for levels of commitment to a game, team etc. For example, variations of this quote have been attributed to football coach Mike Leach:

On the officials in the 2007 Tech-Texas game in Austin:

  • "It's a little like breakfast; you eat ham and eggs. As coaches and players, we're like the ham. You see, the chicken's involved but the pig's committed. We're like the pig, they're like the chicken. They're involved, but everything we have rides on this."

( from Wikipedia)

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