How has the word "pigs" come to be used as slang for feet?

As in the phrase:

My pigs are killing me!

It seems to me that "pigs" and "feet" have very little in common.

I'm not sure how common this usage is. I've certainly heard it on several occasions.

  • 5
    It might be related to the nursery rhyme in which the toes are "ten little piggies" (going to market and all the way home). – aedia λ Oct 4 '11 at 13:36
  • 1
    I've never heard the use of "pigs" in that context but I have frequently two similar phrases: > My dogs are killing me or most frequently > My dogs are barkin' I can see how the first (dogs ... killing) derived from the second, but don't have a source for either "pigs" or "dogs." – eternus Oct 4 '11 at 13:40
  • 2
    I've never heard this slang term. Who says slang makes sense. Like we must have 600 slang terms in English that mean "good" or "bad", many with contradictory literal meanings. Like, "Hey man, this new movie is really hot" and "This new movie is really cool" mean rather similar things: it's good. – Jay Oct 4 '11 at 15:37
  • 1
    Or just the other day my vacuum cleaner wasn't working properly, and I said to my daughter, "This vacuum really sucks." Then I paused and added, "Well, the problem really is that it doesn't suck." – Jay Oct 4 '11 at 15:38
  • 2
    @Jay - There's an old joke that goes: The day "Company X" (I heard it as "Microsoft") makes a product that doesn't suck is the day they start making vacuum cleaners – T.E.D. Oct 4 '11 at 22:53

Actually, I believe it refers to the person's toes, rather than the feet themselves.

It is a reference to the old nursery rhyme This Little Piggy, which is typically done while playing with each of the child's toes in turn.

enter image description here

I've seen a Looney Tune cartoon or two where it is used in this sense, and the given Wikipedia link mentions several. Most often a cartoon character almost falls off something, is hanging on by his toes, and the protagonist evilly plays "this little piggy" while pulling up the toes one-by-one.

  • 1
    This is somewhat believeable. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Oct 4 '11 at 14:56
  • tip-o-the-hat to @aedia – Daniel Oct 4 '11 at 15:36
  • 1
    @drɱ65δ - Agreed. I didn't see that comment when I made this answer, but it is (IMHO) correct, and was made before this answer. It's a shame (s?)he didn't write it as an answer. – T.E.D. Oct 4 '11 at 16:30
  • 1
    Pesky things like w-o-r-k and commuting sometimes interfere with my ability to get full answers out there, but I'm glad to see you had a moment to do so :) – aedia λ Oct 5 '11 at 0:37
  • @aediaλ - Damn Real Life. :-) – T.E.D. Oct 5 '11 at 12:53

I think it has to do with the use of trotters as slang for feet, as can bee seen in this entry at Dictionary.com

trotters noun - 3. the foot of an animal, especially of a sheep or pig, used as food.

And further down the page in the slang section

noun the feet. : Sit down and give your trotters a rest.

So it seems likely that usage has gone backwards from trotters to pigs feet to pigs

  • I've heard "trotter" being used to refer to pigs, as in "There's a couple of trotters out in the yard". – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Oct 4 '11 at 14:57
  • @FrustratedWithFormsDesigner: yes that's another possible way the meaning could have formed, skipping out the step back to "pigs feet" altogether. – Matt E. Эллен Oct 4 '11 at 15:08

Pigs are pink and dirty. Feet (some people's) are pink and dirty. The association seems quite natural.

  • Pigs are actually very clean animals. – Ste Sep 10 '14 at 10:24

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.