In the U.S., pudding has a relatively small life, nutritionally and lexically. But when you look back at jolly old England, this seemingly one-dimensional word has lived a vibrant life in metaphors and idioms. This word’s versatility was foreshadowed by its history: Originally, it referred to entrails, not dessert. Over time, pudding has referred to sausage, fireworks, ropes, clowns, penises, bombs, dummies, fetuses, and, of course, the sweet dessert the word signifies today. That diversity of meanings has spawned plenty of idioms that are ripe for American adaptation.
1. IN THE PUDDING CLUB
This term, which dates back to the late 1800s, refers to being pregnant. A pregnant woman can also be in the pudding class or pudding way. Why pudding? It’s related to the expression pudding in the oven, which is more often a bun among Yanks.
2. PUDDING HOUSE
On a similar note, pudding house has occasionally meant the belly, as seen in a Thomas Nashe use from 1596: “What a commotion there was in his entrayles or pudding-house for want of food.” In other words, “Your stomach’s rumbling so loud it scared Odin’s ravens.”
3. AND 4. PUDDING CART AND PUDDING PIT
These sound about as delicious as a cart and pit could be, but don’t be fooled: A pudding cart hauls garbage or animal guts, and the pudding pit is where such gross stuff gets tossed. These meanings have been around since the 1500s.
5. NOT WORTH A PUDDING
Since the 1500s, this has been an alternative to “not worth a damn.” Here’s a 1602 example collected by the Oxford English Dictionary: “These youths of the parish, that are so spruse in their apparell, haue little money in their purses, and their verses and their tales, are not worth a pudding for our trade.” The sense of pudding as offal was definitely intended.
When things go pear-shaped, they’ve gone sideways—in other words, badly. A 2004 Daily Star article includes a rare synonym: “Cambridge's season is going distinctly pudding-shaped following the dismissal of French misfit Herve Renard.”
This term has usually been literal, but it has had a few derogatory senses, and, according to Green’s Dictionary of Slang, one professional sense: pimp.
This rare term, spotted around 1400, refers to crappy ale. If you can imagine a beer with the consistency of pudding, you’d likely swear off beer forever. Or, maybe, look for a spoon.
9. A PUDDING OF A ______
As far back as the late 1700s, this has been a way to say, “That man, woman, child, or beast is huge.” As far back as the late 1700s, you can find descriptions such as, “A great fat pudding boy.” Besides plus-size-ness, this expression can also indicate idiocy.
10., 11., AND 12. PUDDING AND GRAVY, PUDDING CHEF, PUDDING AND PIES
Cockney rhyming slang is a huge assortment of clever, covert terms, like when apples and pears refers to stairs. Green’s Dictionary of Slang collects several rhyming terms from the pudding shelf, such as pudding and gravy, which has referred to the British Royal Navy since at least 1972. Also, if you’re pudding chef, you’re deaf, which puts a lot of pressure on your pudding and pies: eyes.
13. CAKE AND PUDDING
This refers to any good thing, but especially money. A 1643 OED example suggests trading blasphemy for bucks: “You courted God for caikes and pudding.” That’s a no-no in any holy book other than the Pastry Bible.
This word has the look of an internet coinage, but some things have been called puddingy since the 1700s. It turned up in an 1825 New Monthly Magazine article in a description that would be considered hurtful today, or any day: “A face ruddy, plump and puddingy.” This word is one of many proofs that, in English, there is almost nothing to which the suffix –y will not stick.
15. PUDDING TIME
Back in the 1500s, this term had the literal meaning of that blessed time when pudding was served. Later, pudding time referred to any lucky or fortuitous time. To come in pudding time was to arrive at the perfect time. English essayist Joseph Addison explained the saying back in 1716: “The ordinary Salutation is, Sir, I am glad to see you, you are come in Pudding-time.” Though they come from different sections of the menu, pudding times are later remembered as salad days.