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the proof of the pudding is in the eating

Question 1: What is the role of the?

Question 2: Is it possible to replace the with "a"?

(I am assuming that "proof" means "test".)

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    It's a dictum - it might owe as much to scansion / prosody as to grammar / syntax. Dec 2, 2023 at 23:11
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    Logically, you might think the indefinite article would be at least as appropriate, but it's also relatively uncommon with manners make the man. Dec 2, 2023 at 23:17
  • And even 150 years after it would have been current usage, "manners maketh the man" is current usage for some of us. It's one of those phrases that have been dragged down through history.
    – Badger
    Dec 4, 2023 at 4:27

1 Answer 1

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The principle of this idiom is that each individual pudding can be judged on its taste. Some might be good, some might be bad - you'll know when you eat it.

Without the definite article, 'pudding' would be a mass noun and mean all pudding everywhere. That wouldn't make sense in the context.

Yes, I suppose you could replace it with the indefinite article and it would still make grammatical sense. It might even make more sense in modern English. But this is an idiom - an old saying - and as such people say it the way it has always been said.

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    The point of the idiom is that it's talking about one pudding in particular, not just any pudding.
    – Mr Lister
    Dec 3, 2023 at 15:18
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    @MrLister, so there's some specific pudding somewhere that can be proved by eating it, and all the other puddings in the world can't be proved that way? It's not much of a useful aphorism if it only applies to one particular pudding that was probably eaten centuries ago.
    – The Photon
    Dec 3, 2023 at 18:51
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    @MrLister umm no the point of any any analogy is that it can be applied to things it isn't. This doesn't even have to be about pudding. It's literally anything except a specific pudding.
    – Astralbee
    Dec 3, 2023 at 21:10

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