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December 11, 2003

Slang of the Week: blind pig (noun phrase)
an illegal drinking club

Having lived in New York for three years, Jorge was shocked to discover that the only bars open in Boston after 2 a.m. were blind pigs.

Celebrity quote:
“…inside, more than 500 people brave the $20 admission, the body search for weapons, the lack of heat and suspicious portable toilets, all to have a place where, until dawn, they can experience LSD, Ecstasy, pot or nitrous oxide. It’s called a rave: the 90’s house party redux, a blind pig for kids.”
- Jodi Upton, reporting for The Detroit News

The blind pig, sometimes known as a blind tiger or a speakeasy, was at its most popular in the 1920s, when alcohol was illegal in the US. The Prohibition era, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, led to new kinds of crimes and related slang words.

The alcohol itself could be called booze or giggle-juice, but hooch, named for alcohol made by the Hoochinoo Indians in Alaska, was a more accurate word for the low-quality homemade variety. People who sold liquor were called bootleggers, because boots were a favored hiding place for booze. Now that alcohol is legal again, we use this word to describe those who sell illegal copies of CDs or videos.

As for the blind pigs, to avoid detection by police, they were unmarked and usually had very small windows. Therefore the name could refer to either the difficulty of seeing out of one, or the difficulty of finding one. I like to imagine it’s related to the old saying, “even a blind pig finds an acorn sometimes” though it’s unlikely that alcoholic patrons were able to find the unadvertised clubs by their sense of smell alone!

What’s new at Slang City?
In ASK AC, Gloria has a question about another 1920s expression, which may or may not be related to alcohol.