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In British English, the term "up the duff" is used to describe a pregnant lady.

I've tried to research as to why this is the case but I can't find anything concrete.

Oxford has it as:

1940s (originally Australian): perhaps related to duff.

with the "duff" referred being:

A flour pudding boiled or steamed in a cloth bag:

Now the duff etymology is of Northern England, perhaps from "dough", so I'm confused as to where the crossover between Australia and "dough" comes. Although there could be some weight giving

Any ideas?

  • I'm no expert, but wasn't a 'duff' a form of round steamed pudding at one point (hence also "in the pudding club")? I guess the shape of the pudding correlated to the shape of a pregnant woman's belly and the two became intertwined? – Marv Mills Dec 16 '14 at 13:31
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    Please share your research. Where did you look (just so that others don't do the same fruitless thing)? – Andrew Leach Dec 16 '14 at 13:52
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    @Marv: OED says the etymology of this (originally Australian) expression is "obscure", but may be related to duff = a flour pudding boiled in a bag, a dumpling. Hence analogous to similar slang phrases for pregnancy such as in the (pudding) club or to have a bun in the oven. The belly shape aspect is doubtless relevant here - but there are other related "culinary/creative" usages, such as cooking up a scheme and the "primordial soup" theory, so it needn't depend on that. – FumbleFingers Dec 16 '14 at 13:56
  • I prefer the sensitivity of 'banged up' myself... ;) – Marv Mills Dec 16 '14 at 14:00
  • Your edit came in a bit too late for Hugo... – Mari-Lou A Dec 16 '14 at 14:25
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The OED has it from 1941 and originally Australian.

They say:

Origin uncertain; perhaps related to duff n.1 b, and hence analogous to similar slang phrases for pregnancy such as in the (pudding) club or to have a bun in the oven.

Duff n.1 b* is a flour pudding that's been boiled in a bag, or a dumpling. The a sense is simply dough. Of this they say:

originally a northern pronunciation of dough n.: compare enough.

The duff etymology is of northern England, dating to 1840. How did this get to Australia? Well, duff does appear to have been in use in Australia too, such as in the cake known as plum duff which can be found in Australian newspapers as far back as 1849.

An 1893 article relates the naming of this "great holiday dish of sailors" by a "boatswain's mate, a brawny son of the Emerald Isle" whose task it was to cook a Christmas pudding:

At last he settled upon a recipe which began, " Make a stiff dough." When he reached the word dough he said to himself, " If r-o-u-g-h spells luff, d-o-u-g-h spells duff."

Well, this is probably folk etymology, but this sailors' cake is still known as plum duff in the antipodes today, and it's one of many examples of dough -> duff in 19th century Australia.

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new user here, thanks for allowing me to join the discussion. Dough=Duff is probably/might be a regional British pronunciation as in the surnames Clough "Cluff" and Hough "Huff" that has modified in the modern pronunciation of dough "doh". Have often wondered about that "ough" ending on so many words that are pronounced very differently: cough, plough, through, Slough, rough, dough, etc. and why it was used do often!

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