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I saw a reference to blancmange in an answer to another question and it got me thinking about pudding. It is very common in British English for the word pudding to be used as the general term for dessert, but in American English the word pudding seems to be reserved for a particular type of dessert somewhat akin to blancmange. Any idea why?

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See also the recent discussion of "flan" on the Wikipedia Reference Desk (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Reference_desk/…). It appears that this word has very different culinary meanings on the two sides of the Atlantic. –  Colin Fine Feb 14 '11 at 13:14
Blame Bill Cosby! –  Tester101 Feb 14 '11 at 17:30
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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Pudding originally referred exclusively to varieties of sweet natural-casing sausage. The meaning grew to encompass anything boiled or steamed in a bag, then shifted to refer primarily to desserts, especially those cooked by boiling or steaming. Most recently, in American English, it has changed to refer exclusively to the thick custardy dessertstuff.

Your guess is as good as mine why exactly it changed so much over the years. Perhaps it's simply so much fun to say pudding! that people can't help but repurpose the word.

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+1, See also the Separated By a Common Language blog on this topic, and Wikipedia. –  ShreevatsaR Feb 14 '11 at 10:08
@ShreevatsaR - thanks for the Blog reference –  ukayer Feb 14 '11 at 14:34
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My understanding is that in British English it also means any "sweet or savoury steamed dish made with flour" — e.g., Yorkshire pudding. Also it can mean a type of sausage, like black pudding or blood pudding.

As to why it has come to mean only "a sweet, creamy dessert" in American English, I would suppose it is simply one more example of how, as Shaw said, "England and America are two countries separated by a common language." We say "counter-clockwise" and you say "anti-clockwise". There are literally hundreds of similar dialectical differences.

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Another savoury example would be a steak and kidney pudding. –  Peter Taylor Feb 14 '11 at 13:28
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For what I can remember from my British English studies, pudding is used to generally mean dessert.
For what I can read on the NOAD (which also reports the British meaning of pudding as I reported), in American English is a dessert with a creamy consistency (chocolate pudding, rice pudding).

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