The proof of the pudding / The proof is in the puddding

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The proof of the pudding / The proof is in the puddding

Post by Archived Topic » Sun Oct 31, 2004 9:10 pm

[[The proof is in the taste of the pudding.]] Now i've heard in the last 6 mos. or so, the following phrase: "The proof is in the pudding". Which to me, does not do any justice to the quote. Does anyone know how far back this particular quote goes?
Submitted by Heather Millar (brockville - Canada)
[[Note: The title of this posting has been changed from the original The proof is in the taste of the pudding to its more common forms. -- Forum Moderator]]
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Re: The proof of the pudding / The proof is in the puddding

Post by Archived Reply » Sun Oct 31, 2004 9:25 pm

Both these expressions [[The proof is in the taste of the pudding and The proof is in the pudding]] appear to be bastardizations of the English proverb, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating".

Here, the word 'proof' is being used in its older sense of 'test', hence the proverb is saying "The only way to test how good the pudding is, is to eat it".

'Proof' shares its ultimate etymology with 'prove' and 'probe' (etymologies taken from the online version of _The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language_):

Proof:
Middle English prove, preve, from Anglo-Norman prove and from Old French prueve, both from Late Latin proba, from Latin probre, to prove. See prove.

Prove:
Middle English proven, from Old French prover, from Latin probre, to test, from probus, good.

Probe:
Middle English, examination, from Medieval Latin proba, from Late Latin, proof, from Latin probre, to test, from probus, good.
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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Re: The proof of the pudding / The proof is in the puddding

Post by Archived Reply » Sun Oct 31, 2004 9:39 pm

Heather, The only versions that I was ever aware of until now was THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING and THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING. But as Erik pointed out the original saying is THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING IS IN THE EATING. According to Random House, the saying has been traced back to about 1300, but was popularized by Cervantes in Don Quixote(1605). In that same year the proverb also appeared in William Camden’s Remains Concerning Britain. The expression has been used over the centuries, but particularly by British writers for whom pudding is more of a basic dish than it is for Americans. It originally meant a kind of sausage, and later any food inside a crust, but for Americans it has mainly been a custard-like dessert.

A Google check revealed the following usages: ‘The proof is in the pudding’ – 46,000 hits; ‘The proof of the pudding’ – 22,000; ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating.’ – 15,000. It would be interesting to see if there is any preference based on country.
<1605 “THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING IS IN THE EATING.”--‘Don Quixote’ by Miguel de Cervantes>

<1682 “The proof of th' Pudding's seen i' th' eating.”--‘Lutrin’ by N. O. Boileau, III. Argt.>

<1727 “I leave them to my Reader, with the old Proverb to accompany them, that the PROOF OF THE PUDDING IS IN THE EATING OF IT.”--‘A New Account of the East Indies’ by A. Hamilton, I. page xxix>

<1927 “The moving picture industry, in its frantic search for material from which to make movies, has hit on the movization of comic strips. . . THE PROOF OF THIS particular PUDDING is the way the crowd gobbles it up.”—Washington Post, 6 February, page F2>

<1988 At a press conference, Secretary of State George Schultz said that the Soviets still must spell out exactly how to withdraw from Afghanistan. . . . . “THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING WILL BE IN THE EATING,” he said.—Newsday (N.Y.)”>

<1991 “THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING,” Rolf Ekeus, chairman of the United Nations special commission for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, told reporters after talks with the Iraqi Foreign Ministry officials. “We will wait until we see it.”—New York Times>

<1993 “THE PROOF WILL BE IN THE PUDDING,” he [Senator Pete V. Domenici] said. “If it [the economy] doesn’t work, it’s not going to be much of a victory.”—Times (Trenton)>
(Random House Dictionary of America’s Popular Proverbs and Sayings, Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés, Oxford English Dictionary)
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Ken G – March 21, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Re: The proof of the pudding / The proof is in the puddding

Post by Archived Reply » Sun Oct 31, 2004 9:53 pm

I prefer my own variant of the proverb, "The proof of the padding is in the beating".
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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Re: The proof of the pudding / The proof is in the puddding

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Oct 20, 2008 7:12 am

Several articles have been written on THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING since we last discussed it above back in 2004, including an article by William Safire in his On Language column in today’s New York Times. In his article, reproduced in part below, you will also find a link to Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words discussion on the same subject – a twofer. Such a deal!

Being the nitpicker that I am, I should probably feel some of the outrage that Safire and Quinion seem to feel about the way the original phrase The proof of the pudding is in the eating has been corrupted (where, as Erik pointed out above, ‘proof’ means ‘test’). But somehow I just can’t bring myself to get too upset over this. THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING says plainly enough to me that the ‘proof’ or ‘test’ of the quality of the pudding is in the ‘eating of the pudding.’ What else would the proof be in?: ‘looking at the pudding,’ ‘feeling the pudding,’ ‘throwing the pudding,’ . . . There are a myriad of phrases/sayings/idioms that are a lot less clear in their meaning than this particular somewhat distorted form, so I just can’t get too bent out of shape over it. Sure, the original (the proverb) said things much more precisely, but THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING seems to say it clearly enough, and is just fine by me! Also, if we choose to call it an ‘idiom,’ we can always fall back on the definition of an idiom and we are home free:

IDIOM: A speech form or an expression of a given language that is peculiar to itself grammatically or cannot be understood from the individual meanings of its elements. (American Heritage Dictionary)
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AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY OF IDIOMS

THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING: Results are what counts, as in Let’s see if this ad actually helps sales—the proof of the pudding, you know. The full expression of the proverb, dating from about 1600, is The proof of the pudding is in the eating, but has become so well known that it is often abbreviated.
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OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY

THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING IS IN THE EATING (proverbial phrase) and variants: The efficacy, quality, etc., of something can only be shown by putting it to its intended use. Hence elliptically, as THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING: that which puts something to the test or (in later use) proves a fact or statement. [Originally from proof, ‘test’, but now sometimes understood as proof, ‘evidence.’]
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Some definitions found in other sources include: Performance is the only valid test; a proverbial admonition against passing judgment on something without first examining the evidence or facts; the real value of something can be judged only from practical experience or results and not from appearance or theory. (Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés, Oxford Dictionary of Idioms, Picturesque Expressions by Urdang)
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New York Times
On Language by William Safire
October 19, 2008

Proof Pudding

Seeing is not believing.

Gwen Ifill of PBS, my former Times colleague, who has a book centering on Barack Obama and other rising black political leaders due to come out on Inauguration Day, kept her cool when her impartiality was questioned as she was about to be the moderator of the Palin-Biden debate. Her reaction was expressed in these words: “The proof is in the pudding. They can watch the debate.” And sure enough, she played the moderating role commendably straight.

But the “pudding” — the debate — was not what supplied the proof. Ifill, like most who use that “old saying,” shortened it in a way that leached out its historic meaning. The saying is not “the proof is in the pudding,” but “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Same thing, no?

No. The first dispute over this saying is in its coinage. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations says only that it dates from the “early 14th century,” and the backup provided me by Oxford’s Jesse Sheidlower cites King Alisaunder around 1300 writing “Jt is ywrite that every thing Hymself sheweth in the tastyng.” (See? You can read Middle English. But no puddyng.) The Oxford English Dictionary cites William Camden’s “Remains Concerning Britain,” dated 1605: “All the proof of a pudding is in the eating.” Bartlett’s Quotations, 17th edition, however, cites Miguel de Cervantes’s novel “Don Quixote,” first published that same year. That was a later English translation; Cervantes’s phrase in the Spanish original means “you will see it when you go to fry the eggs.” I’ll let these magisterial sources fight it out, but apparently this phrase, in more than one language, was in the air about four centuries ago, and all agree that in the eating was in the quotation.

Why am I burdening you with this arcana? The proof, better defined as “test,” is not in the pudding, which could be delicious or fattening or themeless; rather, the judgment is in the mind of the person conducting the test — in the eating. As Ifill concluded, “Watch the debate” and then it’s up to you to decide what the test proves. That was her substitute for “is in the eating.”

In The Daily Telegraph of London in 2004, Michael Quinion of World Wide Words took on this tasty subject. “The principal trouble with ‘the proof is in the pudding’ is that it makes no sense,” Quinion, a leading British word maven, wrote. “The full proverb is ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’ and the word ‘proof’ has the sense of ‘test.’ The proverb literally says that you won’t know whether the food has been cooked properly until you try it. Or, putting it figuratively, don’t assume that something is in order or believe what you are told, but judge the matter by testing it; it’s much the same philosophy as ‘seeing is believing.’ ”

See what you miss when you chop off the end of an adage? . . . . Quinion’s [refers] to the related seeing is believing. This was coined in 1609 by a student at Cambridge around the time Cervantes was writing “al freír de los huevos lo vera,” “you will see it when you go to fry the eggs.” The seeing-is-believing proverb was effectively undermined by a scene in the 1933 movie “Duck Soup” in which Chico Marx, disguised in bedclothes and a mustache as Groucho, demands of Margaret Dumont, “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”
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Ken G – October 19, 2008
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