The saying, “A pig in a poke” quoted in Maureen Dowd's article in New York Times (August 10) referring to Donald Trump’s incendiary remarks in Presidential campaign debate (See https://english.stackexchange.com/users/3119/yoichi-oishi?) reminded me of a popular Japanese proverb – Yoto kuniku, which is a direct translation of Chinese proverb, gua yan tou mai gourou-“sell dog meat by displaying the head of lamb at the store-front,” meaning a crooked business practice.

I think “A pig in a poke” and “sell dog meat by displaying the head of lamb” are similar in spirit, however, the former hides the pig, the latter on the contrary shows off a false bait, namely false description of contents in legal terms.

Are there any English counterparts to Japanese / Chinese saying, “Sell dog meat by displaying the head of lamb”?

  • 7
    This practice is called bait and switch but I can’t think of a saying that advises someone on how to do it.
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 2:45
  • 2
    Sell the sizzle, not the steak. Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 3:18
  • "Sell a bill of goods" word-detective.com/2013/05/bill-of-goods
    – user662852
    Commented Aug 17, 2015 at 15:55
  • I always suspected things about the local Chinese takeaway, but I never knew they had an expression about it! :)
    – Wolfie Inu
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 12:50
  • The point about the pig in the poke is that it might not be a pig at all. The seller tells the buyer it's a pig and he buys it without checking.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 7:56

3 Answers 3


Bait-and-switch is a common expression for appearing to offer one thing yet selling another.


This reminds me a little of mutton dressed as lamb which can result in a slap in the face if said within earshot of any number of 'older' females.

  • 1
    It's a likely to be muttered by ‘older’ females, in my limited experience. Commented Apr 4, 2020 at 0:30

The nearest I can think of is window dressing, the second meaning:

the act of decorating and arranging products to display in a store window

something that is intended to make a person or thing seem better or more attractive but that does not have any real importance or effect

Merriam Webster

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