As Pleased As Punch
As Pleased As Punch : Phrases
From the Punch and Judy puppet character. Punch's name derives from Polichinello (spelled various ways, including Punchinello), an Italian puppet with similar characteristics. In Punch and Judy performances the grotesque Punch character is depicted as self-satisfied and pleased with his evil deeds.
Punch and Judy shows are popular summer-time entertainments in Britain. They have been somewhat in decline during the latter half of the 20th and into the 21st centuries, due to them being seen as politically incorrect. That's hardly surprising as the main character Punch is a baby-murdering wife-beater.
There are numerous 'as X as Y' phrases in English - at least 300 are in common use. They invariably compare some characteristic with something that is well-known as exhibiting the same. For example, 'As safe as the Bank of England', 'as white as snow'. Why Punch is seen as synonymous with pleasure or pride is due to the show's storyline which has him calling out "that's the way to do it" in a gleeful voice each time he murders another victim.
Nevertheless, there is still what might be called a folk affection for the old rogue in the UK and it would be a shame to see the tradition fade away completely.
The show had an Italian origin and has been much changed over the years. It began in Britain at the time of the restoration of the monarchy in the 17th century. Samuel Pepys' Diary has an entry from 1666 that shows this early origin and also the popularity of the show even then:
"I with my wife... by coach to Moorefields, and there saw ‘Polichinello’, which pleases me mightily."
The phrase 'as pleased as Punch' appears fairly late in the story. The earliest known record is from Thomas Moore's Letters to Lady Donegal, 1813:
"I was (as the poet says) as pleased as Punch."
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