Dear Word Detective: Where does the saying “the proof’s in the pudding” come from? Google is good for many things, but when what you want is the story behind something (as opposed to simply a sense of how many people are talking about it), it’s like trying to take a sip from a firehose.
I actually did cover “the proof is in the pudding” about eight years ago, but it’s a common question, so we’ll take it for another spin.
“The proof is in the pudding” is a popular figure of speech meaning “the quality, effectiveness or truth of something can only be judged by putting it into action or to its intended use” (“So the proof is in the pudding: they made a big pronouncement on crime prevention, and now they have to follow through,” Edmonton Sun, 3/25/08).
At first glance, “the proof is in the pudding” seems thoroughly mysterious. Does this have anything to do with Colonel Mustard in the study with a candlestick?
But the key to the mystery lies in the fact that “the proof is in the pudding” is actually a mangled form of the original phrase, which was “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” A dish may have been made from a good recipe with fresh ingredients and look delicious, but you can really only judge it by putting it in your mouth.
The actual taste is the only true criterion of success.