The proverb as performed by Jim:  “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.”

Jim told me that he learned this proverb around fifteen years ago from a lawyer in Tennessee.  The two were working on a case together and discussing settlement terms.  The opposing side didn’t offer as much money as Jim wanted, so the other lawyer told him about this “Tennessee saying.”  The phrase stuck with Jim, because it taught him the lesson that one should never be too greedy.

Jim said that the proverb, very simply, means that a little greed and competition results in gain, but too much is never healthy.  Since originally hearing the proverb, Jim said he uses this phrase as a guiding principle in his law practice.  He references it if clients are unhappy with the amount of money that they’re set to get.  He said that clients need to hear this proverb because they often think that their cases are worth more than they actually are.  Jim said that people need to learn to be reasonable.  Jim also uses this proverb in his daily life, but applies it most often in the workplace.

For the most part, I agree with Jim’s interpretation of the proverb.  A “pig” generally refers to a greedy person, or one who indulges in something.  Therefore, “Pigs get fat” signifies that a little bit of greed results in happiness or success.  When applied to humans, “Hog” has a more negative connotation than “pig,” generally meaning extremely greedy.  “Hogs get slaughtered,” then, signifies that those that are too greedy ultimately end up with nothing.

It’s interesting to note that, for at least a small network of attorneys, this proverb has become a form of occupational folklore.  Most of the attorneys at Jim’s law practice use this proverb as a loose guiding principle, and Jim has thanked the Tennessee lawyer for teaching him the saying.  Because law practices generally deal with taking money from people, this proverb acts as a type of moral compass for the job.