To “put lipstick on a pig” is a well-established idiom in the English language, frequently utilised on both sides of the Atlantic.
The idiom suggests an endeavour to implement superficial, cosmetic adjustments to something that is fundamentally flawed or unappealing, in a vain attempt to make it appear more attractive or acceptable to others.
The imagery of the phrase, as evoked in the mind’s eye, is quite telling.
A pig, for all its virtues, is often viewed as a rather unsightly creature, particularly when considered within the typical aesthetic standards of beauty. The application of lipstick, a product typically associated with human beauty and enhancement, seems inherently futile and somewhat absurd when used in conjunction with such a creature.
This starkly highlights the futility and inherent dishonesty of trying to alter the perception of something fundamentally flawed simply through surface-level adornments.
This phrase is often deployed in the spheres of business and politics, particularly within the context of policies or proposals which are deemed as fundamentally flawed. Such attempts at superficial improvement are criticised as they merely tackle the outward appearance, failing to address the underlying, intrinsic issues which are often of greater significance. No matter how much lipstick one might decide to apply to a pig, the fact remains unalterably clear: it will invariably continue to be a pig.
In my cartoon, the pig is the “pandemic” and, more specifically, influenza.
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