Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cosby is just looking for the truth

I used to interpret the phrase the proof is in the pudding as the proof is in the putting since as an American flapper I pronounce them identically. And putting made more sense to me. I figured it meant that until you put something in its final place -- that is, you resolved a situation -- there was no telling how things would 'fall' or end up.

It was a stretch but it worked. Then I read phrase saw that I had been misinterpreting it. But the new meaning didn't make much sense. Did it mean that hidden somewhere in that bowl of murky pudding was some sort of evidence?

But context helps smooth over those ambiguities and mysteries that allow idioms to frolic free from much understanding. It's not even important if the pudding is British savory or American sweet.

Then I read -- who knows where -- that the 'real' phrase was the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Well that makes perfect sense. You can tell me the pudding is good but there's no proof until I taste it. Sure.

But who says that? I had never heard it. And I still hear it only rarely. I've heard it mentioned (not used) in conversations about odd phrases. And in the last month and a half I've heard it used by exactly two speakers. That's two more times than I can remember having heard it previously.

On 2 January 2008 Husain Haqqani spoke at the American Enterprise Institute on the topic of US Foreign policy and recent events in Pakistan. I watched on C-SPAN as he shared his view that the situation has been getting worse:

The number of terrorist deaths in Pakistan in 2006 was 1,471. In 2005, it had only been 648, so it was doubled. Now for 2007 the figure is something like 2,300. So if the proof of the pudding is in the eating, well, with due respect, this pudding does not taste too well.

And recently Dr Phil use the phrase as well. I'm sure he was telling somebody to change some habit and be a better person.

No more commentary from me. Read Michael Quinion if you'd like a little more discussion.


  1. Eek. Now I've got a picture of a giant pudding (perhaps a blancmange?) eating people up...

  2. "[T]his pudding does not taste too well"?!

    I'm entertaining three hypotheses here:

    1. The pudding tastes sick. (Ew.)
    2. The pudding has an insufficiency of working taste buds. (Duh.)
    3. Husain Haqqani hypercorrects. (Boring, but alliterative.)


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