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Sow's Ear

Posted by ESC on April 21, 2004

In Reply to: Sow's Ear posted by SR on April 21, 2004

: : My great-grandmother always used to say:

: : "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear"

: : Any idea of the origin?

: : "You can't make a Silk Purse out of a Sow's Ear."
: - Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745)

: : A Silk Purse From a Sow's Ear
: 1921
: : Taking up Swift's challenge
: Massachusetts industrialist Arthur D. Little liked a challenge. In 1921, after hearing someone quote Jonathan Swift's adage, "You can't make a silk purse of a sow's ear," Little decided to try to do just that. From a meat-packer he obtained a form of glue made from the skin and gristle of sows' ears. Taking an amount roughly equivalent to one sow's ear, he had it filtered and forced through a spinneret into a mixture of formaldehyde and acetone. The glue emerged as 16 fine, colorless streams that hardened and then combined to form a single composite fiber. Little soaked the fiber in dyed glycerin. Then he wove the resulting thread into cloth on a handloom-and fashioned the cloth into the elegant purse shown here, the kind of item carried by ladies of the Middle Ages.
: ( Google search )

YOU CAN'T MAKE A SILK PURSE OUT OF A SOW'S EAR - "You have to have the right starting material to make something or generate a useful idea; you can't make something good from inferior or inapprorpriate raw material.In the 16th century Alexander Barclay put the thought this way in 'Certayne Eglogues': 'None can.make goodly silke of a gotes fleece.' In 1579 Stephen Gosson wrote (in his Ephemerides) of 'seekinge.too make a silke purse of a Sowes eare.'" From The Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers (Wings Books, Originally New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985).

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