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You'd laugh to see a pudding crawl is a catch-phrase aimed at someone who is easily amused or is suffering a fit of uncontrollable hilarity. Does anyone know how this phrase came into being?

I'm not even sure what is meant by a pudding crawl; I presume it means the act of the last part of your meal propelling itself about the table, but perhaps there is another meaning that would make the saying clearer?

Searching the internet revealed that the question has been asked before (here), and the meaning explained (here and here) but the etymology has never been explained.

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I've never heard it before. I'd assume its ironic. –  Ed Guiness Nov 29 '11 at 12:02
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I was tempted to provide the only answer I can see, "because one is British". :) –  Henrik Erlandsson Oct 31 '12 at 21:00

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Matt's idea that the phrase might have a different meaning in each saying seems probable to me.

I've been slightly more successful searching for see a pudding crawl on its own (without the laughing part). And it is a lot more frequent with creep than crawl.

There's a peak in the early 19th century for see a pudding creep because it was used in an essay by Jonathan Swift :

it would vex a dog to see a pudding creep

where it could be understood as "see a pudding go to waste".

The oldest quote I have found is in a 1617 nonsense anonymous verse :

I grant that Rainbowes being lull'd asleep,
Snort like a woodknife in a Lady's eyes;
Which makes her grieve to see a pudding creep,
For Creeping puddings only please the wise.

Here again it's the idea of waste. So how did it become associated with laughter? (A hint of sadism maybe?)

The phrase seems to be British (rather than US), here's an excerpt to what seems to me to be a pastiche from the TV series Star Treck:

"You would laugh to see a pudding crawl..." Spock read aloud, an eyebrow almost rocketing off his face. "...a fascinating image."

Kirk gave him a weird look. "I never thought I'd say this, but that's one of the only phrases I haven't heard Bones say."

"That is hardly surprising, Jim, as it originates in Britain."

It can found in a cockney dictionary and a 2005 excerpt from a web blog:

But then, us Londoners, as my dad used to say, would laugh to see a pudding crawl.

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Laugh of the day. What a collection of humoriora :) P.S. blog is an short form of "web log". Sorry, couldn't help myself. Why is "one of the only" so funny? :) –  Henrik Erlandsson Oct 31 '12 at 21:02

I've not heard the expression before.

Seeing a pudding crawl must be an unremarkable event, since if you laugh at a pudding crawl, then you'll laugh at anything.

My initial reaction was that crawl is being used in the sense of one's skin crawling, so puddings like blancmange, trifle, jelly, flan, etc., are easy to make their surfaces look like they are crawling - similarly with rice pudding or custard.

However, I have found (at phrase finder) the phrase "what would shock me would make a pudding crawl", which means:

It takes an awful lot to shock me: predominantly feminine: c. 1880-1920

Which would imply that it is difficult to make a pudding crawl.

It is possible that the pudding crawl has a different meaning in each saying, or that, in the sense of being unshockable, it is being used sarcastically or ironically.

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Mmmm.... Blancmange. –  Mahnax Nov 29 '11 at 15:27

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