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Re: "Pie in the sky"

Posted by ESC on August 20, 2001

In Reply to: "Pie in the sky" origin? posted by Patty on August 20, 2001

: We know that "pie in the sky" is something expected or promised that isn't going to actually materialize. This is pretty much the common meaning of the phrase.

: But where does it come from? Is it from a story? (Sort of the positive complement to the negative "cry 'wolf'" folk story and phrase meaning?

: - Patty

PIE IN THE SKY - "scornful characterization of liberal or populist promises. In the vocabulary of rhetorical counterattack - 'empty promises,' 'cruel demagoguery,' 'callous vote-buying' - none has been more durable than 'pie in the sky.' In the face of this withering return fire, even the word 'promise' has disappeared from campaign oratory, supplanted by the more solemn 'pledge.'

The origin of 'pie of the sky' was supplied the author by laborlore specialist Archie Green, a professor of English at Ohio State University. The phrase was coined around 1910 in 'The Preacher and the Slave,' a composition by legendary labor hero Joe Hill, which became part of the widely distributed 'little red songbooks' of the Industrial Workers of the World (the I.W.W., or 'Wobblies').

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.

Professor Green rightly calls this phrase 'the most significant Wobbly contribution to the American vocabulary.' Conservative speakers have been seizing on it for denunciation for three generations."

From "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993). Page 575-576.