Lipstick on a pig is a proverbial expression, referring to a trivial cosmetic change that one makes in the futile effort of covering up the obviously decrepit.
Over the history of the English language, several idioms and proverbs involving pigs were in use.
Popular examples are “pig in a poke” or “pearls before swine” which are still commonplace today.
“Lipstick on a pig” had several historical variations before emerging in its current form in the 20th century.
The 16th century version of the phrase went “you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear” while in the 1700’s the saying went as “a hog in armor is still a hog” which modified to “a hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog”.
One of the earliest documented cases of “lipstick on a pig” was published in Stella Gibbons’ “Westwood” in 1946.
Over the years, the phrase had seen frequent use, appearing in the articles of various news outlets.
During the 2000’s, it would often emerge in relation to business as well as politics, being used both by Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008.
- Slate.com – Who First Put “Lipstick on a Pig”?