sell someone a pup

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From an old swindle, where one would be sold a bag purportedly containing a piglet, but actually containing a puppy. Compare pig in a poke.


sell someone a pup (third-person singular simple present sells someone a pup, present participle selling someone a pup, simple past and past participle sold someone a pup)

  1. (UK) To sell something of little worth, pretending that it is something else of greater value.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:deceive
    • 1931, R. Austin Freeman, Pontifax, Son and Thorndyke, published 2003, page 31:
      “Yes,” I agreed, “you undoubtedly sold him a pup. Precious mug he must have been to let you. But I suppose, as it was Saturday night, he was pretty busy.”
    • 2004, Henry De Vere Stacpoole, “Glued”, in The Slayer and Other Tales from the Pulps, page 99:
      I don't know who sold him the gold prospectus, but whoever did, sold him a pup.
      previously published in a pulp magazine
    • 2009 July 20, Arifa Akbar, “Churchill felt he was ‘sold a pup’ of a bomb shelter, letter reveals”, in The Independent[1]:
      The document [] reveals how Churchill complained that Duff had “sold him a pup” and let him think that “this place is a real bomb-proof shelter”.
    • 2009 July 31, “Online dog lovers sold a pup”, in Sydney Morning Herald[2]:
      Online dog lovers sold a pup [title]
    • 2011, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, Dynasty 22: The Mirage[3]:
      It hurt Henrietta to think that there was any area in which her husband did not excel, but if he had been anyone else she would have concluded that the dealer had sold him a pup.

Usage notes[edit]

Often used in the passive voice:

I've been sold a pup.

Related terms[edit]

See also[edit]