Proof of The Pudding

Previous Page

Proof of The Pudding : Phrases


To fully test something you need to experience it.



This phrase is just shorthand for 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating'. That makes sense at least, whereas the shortened version really doesn't mean anything. Nor does the often quoted incorrect version 'the proof is in the pudding'. Many people fail to see the sense of any of these though. The meaning become clear when it is realised that proof here means test. The more common meaning of proof in our day and age is the noun form, with the meaning 'demonstrating something to be true' - as in a mathematical or legal proof. The verb form, meaning 'to test' is less often used these days, although it does survive in several commonly used phrases: 'the exception that proves the rule', 'proof-read', 'proving-ground', etc. Clearly the distinction between these two forms of the word was originally quite slight and the proof in a 'showing to be true' sense is merely the successful outcome of a test of whether a proposition is correct or not.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating is a very old proverb. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations dates it back to the early 14th century, albeit without offering any supporting evidence for that view. The phrase is widely attributed to Cervantes' in The History of Don Quixote. That appears to be by virtue of an early 18th century translation by Peter Motteux, which has been criticised by later scholars as 'a loose paraphrase' and 'Franco-Cockney'. Crucially the Spanish word for pudding - 'budín', doesn't appear in the original Spanish text.

The earliest text that there is supporting documentary evidence, albeit itself being a translation, this time from French to English', is Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux's Le Lutrin, 1682:

"The proof of th' Pudding's seen i' th' eating."

Phrases Index

From The Pudding to HOME PAGE

Follow These Links!