Silk Purse

You cannot make a silk purse of a sow's car. “You cannot make a horn of a pig's tail.” A sow's ear may somewhat resemble a purse, and a curled pig's tail may somewhat resemble a twisted horn, but a sow's ear cannot be made into a silk purse, nor a pig's tail into a cow's horn.

You cannot make, my lord, I fear,
A velvet purse of a sow's ear.

Peter Pindar: Lord B. and His Motions.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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