Not my pigeon

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Not my pigeon

Post by tony h » Wed Sep 27, 2006 9:32 am

Any idea on the origin of this. I am highly dubious about one site's claim that it is a corruption from "not my pidgin [English]".

It seems far more likely to have come from a contraction of something like : "don't put that mail in my pigeon hole".
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Not my pigeon

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Sep 27, 2006 5:31 pm

Tony, I’ve never heard the expression NOT MY PIGEON, meaning ‘not my business,’ concern, affair. It is apparently a British phrase (also possibly used in Australia and New Zealand) and the word PIGEON here derives from the way the Chinese pronounced ‘business’—‘bijin’ or ‘bigeon,’ which was heard as ‘pidgin’ and which degenerated into ‘pigeon’ and thus the language ‘pidgin/pigeon English.’ So the original expression was probably ‘not my bijin/pidgin,’ not my business’ and did not refer to the language (‘not my pidgin English’).

Oxford Dictionary of Idioms:

BE SOMEONE’S PIGEON” Be someone’s concern or affair. In this phrase the word PIGEON derives from PIDGIN, as in ‘pidgin English,’ the term for a grammatically simplified form of language used for communication between people not sharing a common language. PIDGIN itself represents a Chinese alteration of the English word ‘business’: it entered the English language with the meaning ‘occupation’ or ‘affair(s)’ in the early 19th century, emerging from the hybrid of English and other languages used at the time between Europeans and the Chinese for trading purposes
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Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang

PIGEON noun [20th century and still in use]: concern, problem, e.g. that’s your pigeon.
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American Heritage Dictionary

PIGEON noun: An object of special concern; an affair or matter. [Alteration of PIDGIN.]
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Cambridge International Dictionary

BE NOT YOUR PIGEON: U.K. old-fashioned: To not be your responsibility: <“Transport? That’s not my pigeon – ask Danny.”>
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Oxford English Dictionary

PIDGIN [[which also became PIGEON]]: 1a) Business; an action, occupation, or affair. Now archaic.
<1807 “Ting-qua led me into a Poo Saat Mew, a temple of Poo Saat. ‘This Jos’, pointing to the idol, said he ‘take care of fire “PIGEON,”fire “business”’—‘Journal of Asian Pacific Communication’ (1990), ‘Journal’ by R. Morrison, I. page 93>

<1834 “‘I wish you would tell me where Stubbs is at present.’ ‘Tubbs! Tubbs! massa me tell him true, my no sabe dat PIGEON!’”—‘Dublin University Magazine,’ 4, page 145/1>

<1862 “It only stopped the private ‘PIDGIN’ for a time;—‘the wicked and corrupt of government’ of a later day permitting the old thing over and over again.”—‘Hongkong’ by W. Tarrant, I. page 119>

<2003 “The slightly more witty but also historical New Zealand version mind your own PIGEON (PIGEON here being derived from PIDGIN, business, as in PIDGIN English).”—‘Daily Telegraph’ (Sydney) (Nexis), 25 July, page 30>
1b) TO BE A PERSON’S PIGEON: to be a person's concern, responsibility, or area of interest or expertise.
<1902 “Guarding a house is ‘NOT THEIR PIDGIN’ as the Chinese say . . . One dog one billet is their motto.”—‘Bulletin’ (Sydney), 27 December, page 32/1>

<1904 “‘What about their musketry average?’ I went on. ‘NOT MY PIDGIN,’ said Bayley.”—‘Traffics and Discoveries’ by Rudyard Kipling, page 293>

<1924 “Geoffrey Bruce whose ‘PIGEON’ it is to deal with the porters.”—in ‘Fight for Everest’ 1924 (1925) by E. F. Norton, ‘Letters’ by G. L. Mallory, 11 May, II. page 233>

<1961 “Well, you do something, Thomas Henry, it's your PIGEON.”—‘Two for the River and other Stories’ by L. P. Hartley, page 45>

<1981 “'True, Chief-Inspector. But me, when I am asked to undertake an investigation, I am the lion or the tiger, I do not let go.' 'I wish I could say the same. But political cases, they're NOT MY PIGEON . . .”—‘Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations’ by Julian Symons>

<1989 “This ISN’T HIS PIGEON. He's probably in bed.”—‘Devices and Desires’ by P. D. James, xxiv. page 173>
(quotes from the Oxford English Dictionary and other sources)
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Ken – September 27, 2006
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Not my pigeon

Post by tony h » Thu Sep 28, 2006 11:16 am

Thanks Ken it looks like hat for me for supper.

It cropped up predominantly as a military or colonial expression.
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Not my pigeon

Post by gdwdwrkr » Thu Sep 28, 2006 12:04 pm

Mmmm, hat! It's an acquired taste. (It goes well with crow.)
My Korean friend, coaching soccer when our kids were little, had to constantly yell for them to "Get in your pagicians!!" which, of course, they understood, and got in their positions. The above, about pidgin, reminded me of this endearing quality of oriental engrish.
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Not my pigeon

Post by Daniel » Thu Sep 28, 2006 2:10 pm

I would endorse Ken Greenwald's explanation.
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Not my pigeon

Post by gdwdwrkr » Thu Sep 28, 2006 3:28 pm

Welcome Daniel. Wise move.
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Not my pigeon

Post by Wizard of Oz » Fri Sep 29, 2006 8:36 pm

.. Daniel .. live dangerously !!! .. soar to the edge .. disagree with Ken .. *grin* .. make his pigeon your pigeon .. maybe even a pigeon pair .. BTW Ken I haven't heard this expression used Downunder .. how about you southern aussies or bananabenders ?? .. over with the sandgropers ?? ..

WoZ of Aus 30/09/06
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Not my pigeon

Post by gdwdwrkr » Fri Sep 29, 2006 10:50 pm

Daniel, don't listen to WoZ, he's a very bad man.
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Not my pigeon

Post by Bobinwales » Sat Sep 30, 2006 4:36 pm

The expression is not used Downunder? I really am amazed, it is in such common use in the UK that I would have thought that it would have tripped off the tongue of any Aussie or New Zealander. I am pleased to find out where it came from however, and I would never have expected Chinese origin, so there we have it, it goes down alongside "cup of char".
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Not my pigeon

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Oct 01, 2006 9:07 am

.. aha Bob .. Aus is a bloody big country and that is why I asked for observations from other Aussies .. however now that I am back home I am able to look in the Macquarie 4 and indeed it is listed ..
pigeon 4. Colloquial responsibility; concern: that's his pigeon. 5. Colloquial a dupe.
.. so it seems that some Aussies do use it .. and in the Aussie Word Map ..
pigeon A derogatory term used to indicate a weak useless person (Australian army slang)
.. and I didn't hear that when I was in the Army either .. *grin* ..

WoZ of Aus 01/10/06
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Not my pigeon

Post by beesting » Fri Oct 06, 2006 3:11 pm

Nope, never heard this one in NZ either! (or China for that matter!) Its cute though!
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