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The Real Story Behind the Phrase ‘As Pleased As Punch’

Marioneta, Wiki Commons

If your best friend sidles up to you and tells you that he or she is “as pleased as punch,” then you know that person is very pleased indeed.

But how did this phrase come into being in the  first place?

Not from the punch bowl

Some people seem to think the term “as pleased as punch” is derived from the typical punch bowl found at the office holiday party — you know, that big bowl full of red or green fruit punch, which one of your colleagues will inevitably spike with some gin or vodka, making sure that everyone gets good and drunk. While many of your co-workers, who guzzle down the liquor-laced punch, will undoubtedly end up being very pleased with themselves, that’s actually not where this expression comes from.

Pleased as a… puppet?

The term actually comes from a puppet character, known as ‘Mr. Punch.’ The original ‘Punch’ was an Italian puppet named Polichinello. When the ‘Punch and Judy’ shows evolved, and made their way to England, the star of the show got a name change.

A happy, yet terrible role model

The shows varied some from stage to stage, but the basic plot usually remained the same. Mr. Punch beats his wife, kills his child, escapes from prison, murders a cop and a lot of other people, and does many terrible things. Yet he’s always very jovial in how he goes about his life, and always cheers loudly, “That’s the way to do it!”

Merry psychopaths

Mr. Punch is definitely not the best role model for a happy human being (unless that man or woman happens to be a psychopath), but the phrase somehow stuck. That’s something you should think about the next time someone tells you that they are “as pleased as punch.” You might want to take a few steps away from that person.

[World Wide Words]

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