’The proof is in the pudding”.
I find it hard to see how anyone can make any sense of this utterly senseless statement. It does not stand up to even the most cursory examination. Proof of what? We don’t know, nobody told us. And what pudding is this unidentified proof in? Black pudding? Bread pudding? Jack pudding? Any pudding? “The proof is in any pudding”. That still makes no sense at all.
“The proof of the pudding is in the eating”, on the other hand, is a crystal-clear statement, requiring no elucidation whatever. It answers all questions about itself, where the truncated version answers none:
What pudding? Any pudding. “The pudding” is a generic pudding, as “the rattlesnake” (“the rattlesnake is a poisonous snake of the family Viperidae”) is a generic rattlesnake. Proof of what? The proof (i.e. test) of the pudding, of course. Of any pudding.
What’s in the pudding? NOTHING is in the pudding, other than its ingredients!! The proof is in the eating of the pudding, not in the pudding itself. “The way to test a pudding is by eating it”. Show me the half-wit who doesn’t understand that (journalists and politicians don’t count).
Correction: In fairness, i can think of one set of circumstances in which “The proof is in the pudding” makes sense of a kind:
The time: Christmas.
The place: the Scratchit home.
The occasion: Christmas dinner.
The Scratchit family are seated round the table, finishing off the last of the great dish of numbles generously provided by their neighbour, the horse-knacker. Ma Scratchit is in the kitchen. On the table in front of her sits the Christmas pudding, huge, glistening, steaming. She opens a bottle of rectified spirits, and carefully pours a generous pint into a purpose-built crater in the top of the pudding; then, after taking a quick swig from the bottle, she ceremoniously ignites the thing with her candle, and carries it triumphantly to the dinner table, crying “The proof is in the pudding!”
(stumbles back to the cupboard with the bottles)