Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin

Discussion in 'English Only' started by presl, Aug 10, 2009.

  1. presl Senior Member

    Hi! I know that 'chinny-chin-chin' is a cute way of saying 'chins'. But I do not quite understand the part - 'not by the hair'. Could you make this line in red clear? What does 'Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin" mean? Many thanks.

    [The Three Little Pigs]

    "Little pig, little pig, let me come in!"

    "Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!"

    "Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in!"
  2. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    (I take it this isn't from Prison Break, Presl:D)

    It's just a whimsical way of saying No way! / Never ever! ... not to be 'translated' too closely:)
  3. presl Senior Member

    Ha ha! I learned a new expression in the Warehouse 13 which is related to a line in this story! :D

    Yes, ewie, I interpreted the entire line as 'No way!' But I do not quite get why the little pig say 'not by the hair on my ....' I mean, the literal meaning.

    May I get this whole line as ' I do not think you are going to succeed in getting in my house to catch me by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin. ' ?
  4. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Interesting ... in decades of listening to and reading aloud this story, that possibility has never occurred to me.

    I have always heard this as an oath, an affirmation, by each little pig, swearing by something he holds dear. Perhaps this is because the version I am familiar with has slightly different wording.
    Wolf: Little pig, little pig, let me come in.
    Pig: Oh no, not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin, I'll not let you in.

    Now, why on earth would the little pigs swear by the hair on their chins?
    Pigs are not famed for their hair, and certainly not the hair on their chins.
    Perhaps the story began with goats instead of pigs :)
    Another of life's mysteries to ponder.
  5. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    Yes, that's how I've always heard it ~ along the lines of In the name of all that's holy, you shall not pass! or By all the saints in heaven, you'd better stop doing that now!

    Beasties often mutate in the retelling of folk tales:)
    (My emphasis).

  6. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    The hair on one's chin is one's beard. In folklore, the beard was always considered special, or magical, or sacred, and taking an oath by one's beard was a standard practice. Notice, by the way, how in Act 4, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Two Gentleman of Verona the Third Outlaw says (in response to the Second Outlaw's statement that they will listen to Valentine):
    Ay, by my beard, will we, for he's a proper man.

    Pigs do not have beards, of course, but they may have stray hairs on their chin that can at least serve the purpose for taking an oath.
  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Another piece in the jigsaw!
    If I put together ewie's find suggesting that the pigs were once goats and GWB's information about the long pedigree of swearing by one's beard, the mystery is solved, is it not?
    Not for the first time. It seems that this voyage of discovery is well-trodden.
    (Googling three little pigs goats beard finds several previous reports.)
  8. lablady

    lablady Senior Member

    Central California
    English - USA
    This is interesting. All these years I've assumed that because the pigs had little to no beard, the pigs were vowing that there was little to no chance that the wolf would be successful.

    I need to learn not to assume. :eek:
  9. presl Senior Member

    I can see where I was confused now. Thank you very much, everybody. I get it this time! : D

    GreenWhiteBlue, ewie, thanks for your comments and the link.
  10. jimbojamesIV New Member

    As I was reading Shakespeare's As You Like it, I came across the phrase, "Swear by one's beard," and I have come to realize that swear by one's beard, as swear by the hair on my chinny, chin-chin (or even just one chin), means to swear on one's head, or, more precisely, one's life; and if it comes to pass that it is not so, well, then the price is your head.
  11. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    I would disagree. The beard was specifically the emblem of manhood and of adult male respect and dignity. Loss of the beard (especially an involuntary loss) was considered an enormous humiliation, and a source of deep shame. There is, for example, this account from chapter 19 of the first book of Chronicles in the Bible which describes the rude treatment given the ambassadors of King David by King Hanun:
    You might also ask any soldier who has served in Afghanistan whether American and European military regulations that require soldiers to be clean-shaven result in a physical appearance that many Afghanis regard as effeminate and disgraceful, and whether as a result those regulations are often unenforced by some commanders.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 17, 2009
  12. mjscott Senior Member

    Eye-opening! I just always thought that whoever wrote the stuff needed a rhyme for the word, "in!"
  13. nijath77 New Member

  14. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    No, I think the little pigs are swearing on their beards, (as one does), and I would say that this little touch is meant to make children laugh since they know pigs don't have beards, and in fact have very little chin to speak of. I don't think it's necessary to suppose the original animals were goats.
  15. againhpozos New Member

    Mexico City
    There is a phrase in spanish (It may not make much sense in english) that may explain what the pigs intend to say... << Spanish removed. >> (By a tiny hair of a bald frog), meaning that something was that close to happen.... Well, just a thought! Anyway, is the moral of Three Little Pigs that counts (What was that BTW?)

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 5, 2013
  16. azz Senior Member

    "Not by the hair on my chinny- chin-chin!”

    The line is well-known. It is from the story 'Three Little Pigs'. Well, the meaning is sort of clear. The sentence means 'No way I am going to do it.'
    But how does it work?
    What does 'by' mean in that sentence?
    Could you give other examples of that usage of 'by'?

    Many thanks.
  17. cubaMania Senior Member

    It's being used to swear a mild oath.
    It can be seen as a milder version of "By God".
    By my beard (I won't let you come in.)
    By my mother's life
    By X, X being any valued object.
  18. Glenfarclas Senior Member

    English (American)
    It's the by used in oaths, such as "I'll do it, by God!", "By Jove, I think he's got it!", or "I swear by the souls of my children."

  19. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Azz, I've merged your question, and the replies it received, with an earlier thread that addresses this topic. If you have any further questions, you're welcome to add them to this thread.

    English Only moderator
  20. azz Senior Member

    Thank you very much.

    This is really interesting. I knew about 'by my beard' and all that. My problem is that he says: 'NOT by the hairs of my chin'. I believe it should be: 'By the hairs of my chin, I will not let you in.'

    It is the first 'not' that throws me off. You might say 'By all that is sacred, I will not let you in.' But would you say 'NOT by all that is sacred'?

    Many thanks.
  21. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    You're right that it really is flawed logically, but I think it's just a rhythm thing. It is part of a little rhyming couplet, so it has to fit the meter. What it means is "By the (sacred/powerful thing), I will not let you in."
  22. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    I think that there is some ellipsis here:

    "Little pig, little pig, let me come in!"

    "[I will] Not, [I swear] by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin, [let you in]!"
  23. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    That works too. :)
  24. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    I also now see that the Wikipedia page has "No, no, not by the hair on my chinny chin chin." but then the words of the story are not set in stone.

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