In an article under the title, “Trump the disrupter,” (New York Times August 10 issue), Op-ed columnist, Maureen Dowd wrote:

“It is really hard to know who you’re electing. That’s because you can’t foresee what crises will crop up, or what gremlins of insecurity and perversity the White House will inevitably elicit in presidential psyches.

You can have a candidate like W., after sincerely telling us he will have a “humble” foreign policy, proceed to stumble jejunely into decades-long wars in the Middle East. You can have a charming newcomer like Barack Obama, ascending like a political Pegasus, who loses altitude because it turns out he disdains politics. It’s always a pig in a poke. So why not a pig who pokes?http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/09/opinion/sunday/maureen-dowd-trump-the-disrupter.html?

I know “a pig in a poke” as a cliché. But I cannot make out what the next line - "Why not a pig who pokes” means?

Does it mean a would-be President is allowed to become a chameleon once he attains the throne? What does the second “poke” as a verb mean?


As the second thought after rereading the quote, I came to think “Why not a pig who pokes” means “Isn't it good to have a pig who pokes out the poke and reveals what he really is, or attempts?” But I’m not sure of whether it’s on the mark or not.

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    No one has mentioned this so far, so I will. Consider the fact that Mr Donald Trump, who is running for candidacy, is a renowned opportunist, and sexist. Women often call sexist men "pigs", the expression "male chauvinist pig" is probably an epithet that Mr Trump wears with a certain pride. So it's quite a clever use of image, folklore and clichés all rolled in one. – Mari-Lou A Aug 10 '15 at 13:55
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    It's just a neat little play on words. A pig in a poke is when you don't know if you are getting what you paid for. And then she turns it round and says it's not only a real pig, it's a pig with attitude. – RedSonja Aug 10 '15 at 14:32
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    Frankly, as a play on words it's not a very good one. – Hot Licks Aug 10 '15 at 17:06
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    Indeed. One might even say it's ham-fisted. – mxyzplk Aug 11 '15 at 12:34

It is play on the old saying a pig in a poke that is something you buy without actually seeing what it really is. enter image description here

A pig who pokes is a pig who:

enter image description here

  • To thrust forward; appear: The child's head poked from under the blankets. (AHD)

So you know in advance who you are voting for.

The author is saying, whenever we vote for a President, we don't actually know who we are voting for (a pig in the poke) so why not a pig who pokes, a candidate who shows his real nature/intentions during their campaign rather than after being elected.


It means: "Since you can never really tell what you're getting when you go to the polls, why NOT vote for a bad-mannered, bad-tempered, boorish person who throws personal insults at everyone who disagrees with him?"

The author is arguing that many people see casting a ballot as essentially a blind choice - like "buying a pig in a poke" - so the fact that a candidate behaves like a pig during the campaign may not be considered a disqualification by some voters.


"Pig in a poke" meaning "something hidden" has already been answered. Another meaning of "poke" was a an type of women's bonnet, which hid the face from view. There are some 18th century cartoons here: http://mikerendell.com/a-pig-in-a-poke-an-eighteenth-century-view/

For "A pig who pokes", The "pig" part seems straightforward: "Why not a pig...." = "Why not somebody who behaves like a pig," or "who looks like a pig" (see Google images for lots of examples.)

There are several meanings of "poke" that are relevant as well as the literal one of "jab" or "prod":

"Poke a fire" = "cause something to blaze up" (e.g. "Trump poked the immigration fire")

"Poke around" or "Poke ones nose into" = "go searching for something", often used in the sense of "go looking for trouble."

"Take a poke at someone" = literally or metaphorically "hit someone", or "have sex with someone" (not necessarily with their consent).


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    +1 I think it's fair to suggest that Mr. Trump is known for his poking - verbally jabbing and assaulting those he dislikes or disagrees with. – bib Aug 10 '15 at 14:48
  • A poke is a bag. "And then he drew a dial [clock] from his poke." The cartoonist is making a pun on "pig in a poke" and a "poke bonnet". – Malvolio Aug 10 '15 at 20:42
  • To "poke" is also sometimes used as a sexual innuendo (with the obvious meaning) though I think that's much less common and probably not what the original author was intending. – Harry Johnston Aug 11 '15 at 10:37

A poke is a bag. When I worked on a hop-farm, the light hessian bags into which the hop-flowers were fed were called pokes. Oddly, the very large, densely-woven, tubular bags into which the dried flowers were pressed were called pockets, although you'd think that pocket was a diminutive of poke. So buying a pig in a poke was buying a pig in a bag, unseen. Perhaps small pigs were once carried to market in bags.

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    Related to French poche (pocket). – Mynamite Aug 10 '15 at 7:59
  • The problem with buying a pig in a poke is that it may turn out to be a cat or a rat or some such. – Hot Licks Aug 10 '15 at 11:24
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    @HotLicks Hence the corresponding Spanish saying of dar/comprar/tomar gato por liebre meaning “giving/buying/taking (a) cat for (a) hare”. So our don’t buy a pig in a poke is their don’t buy a cat for a hare, and for exactly the same reason. – tchrist Aug 10 '15 at 12:21
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    This is all well and true, but it completely ignores the actual question. Yoichi already says that he understands what pig in a poke means (and asking for that would be GR, too, since it's in any decent dictionary), but doesn't get “why not a pig that pokes?”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 10 '15 at 16:59
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    In the West of Scotland, we still refer to a bag as a poke. Still brings alarm to strangers' faces when a shopkeeper asks "Do you want a poke with that?" – Laconic Droid Aug 10 '15 at 20:22

The phrase "buying (or selling) a pig in a poke" refers to buying something you can't inspect and trusting that it really is as described. "You can't open the bag here, since the piglet might escape, but I promise that it's a healthy little one, definitely worth the price I'm asking for it."

Obviously, the seller may have been lying -- the thing in the bag might not even be a pig. Hence the phrase generally does imply a high (or at best unknown) probability of fraud. It's often used to describe vague political promises, for example.

"Why not a pig who pokes" is just wordplay based on this traditional phrase. To be sure if the intended meaning (if any), I'd need to see it in context.

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    #mary-loua@ tnx, fixed. – keshlam Aug 10 '15 at 14:03
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    Just a polite suggestion. If you need the context, wouldn't it be better to ask for it in a comment and then answer when you have the vital information. Otherwise your answer is merely repeating the question. No offence meant, and I hope none taken :-) – chasly - supports Monica Aug 11 '15 at 12:09
  • @chaslyfromuk: I don't actually think we need the context; I believe my answer is sufficient and the OP can figure out the rest easily enough. – keshlam Aug 11 '15 at 15:35

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