Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pig in a Python

I was discussing the future of aging services in Michigan with some colleagues from the Commission on Services to the Aging when the phrase “the pig in the python” came up. It is now applied to all sorts of statistical surges, but when it was first used in the early 1970s, it referred exclusively to baby boomers.

Pythons can swallow large animals—pigs, sheep, and so on. As the digestive process proceeds, the meal can be seen as a bulge slowly traveling from the front end of the python to the back end.

A baby boomer is someone born right after World War II (roughly 1946 to 1964) when a surge of births took place. Looking towards the future, social changes could be predicted as this large cohort moved through school, through the work force, through parenthood, and into retirement. To some imaginative soul, the idea of a pig moving through the digestive process in a python seemed to be an apt image. Personally, I find that it makes me queasy.

One early appearance was written by Russell Baker for the April 21, 1974, issue of New York Times Magazine: “All very well for the bulge group, you may say. It will continue to dominate society as it passes through the decades like a pig through a python.”

SIDEBAR: Making No Bones About It: Digestion In Burmese Pythons [Society for Experimental Biology, April 4, 2007]

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