What Does the Expression “Pie In the Sky” Mean and Where Did the Idiom For a False Promise Originate?

In the early 1900s, a radical workers’ union used a song called The Preacher and the Slave to blame the church for suppressing the poor with promises of rewards in heaven.

The song included these lines, and from them, “pie in the sky” took the meaning of a false promise.

You will eat, by and by,
In that glorious land above the sky.
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die, by and by.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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