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Coined by Stephen Gosson in 1579 in the book The Ephemerides of Phialo: Deuided Into Three Bookes p62v


make a silk purse of a sow's ear

  1. (idiomatic) To produce something refined, admirable, or valuable from something which is unrefined, unpleasant, or of little or no value.
    • 1884, Charlotte M. Yonge, The Armourer's Prentices, ch. 22:
      "He always was an unmannerly cub," said Master Headley, as he read the letter. "Well, I've done my best to make a silk purse of a sow's ear!"
    • 1997, Joanna Biddolph, "Mandelson has become PR’s new role model," PRWeek (UK), 23 May (retrieved 16 Dec. 2009):
      PR people can make a silk purse of a sow's ear.
    • 2001, Penny Jackson, "House & Home: On your marks. Get set. Sell!" Independent (UK), 6 Jan. (retrieved 16 Dec. 2009):
      A smart development can make a silk purse of a sow's ear, and the effect on older properties can be quite dramatic.

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