from the Indian word punj (five); so called from its five ingredients- viz. spirit, water, lemon, sugar, and spice. It was introduced into England from Spain, where it is called ponche. It is called “Contradiction,” because it is composed of spirits to make it strong, and water to make it weak; of lemon-juice to make it sour, and sugar to make it sweet.
A Roman mime called Maccus was the original of Punch. A statuette of this buffon was discovered in 1727, containing all the well-known features of our friend- the long nose and goggle eyes, the hunch back and protruding breast.
The most popular derivation of Punch and Judy is Pontius cum Judæis (Matt. xxvii. 19), an old mystery play of Pontius Pilate and the Jews; but the Italian policinello seems to be from pollice, a thumb (Tom-thumb figures), and our Punch is from paunch.}
The drama or story of our Punch and Judy
is attributed to Silvio Fiorillo, an Italian comedian of the seventeenth century. The tale is this: Punch, in a fit of jealousy, strangles his infant child, when Judy flies to her revenge. She fetches a bludgeon, with which she belabours her husband, till Punch, exasperated, seizes another bludgeon and beats her to death, then flings into the street the two dead bodies. The bodies attract the notice of a police officer, who enters the house. Punch flees for his life; being arrested by an officer of the Inquisition, he is shut up in prison, from which he escapes by means of a golden key. The rest is an allegory, showing how Punch triumphs over all the ills that flesh is heir to. (1) Ennui, in the shape of a dog, is overcome; (2) Disease, in the disguise of a doctor, is kicked out; (3) Death is beaten to death; and (4) the Devil himself is outwitted.
Pleased as Punch.
A Suffolk punch. A short, thick-set cart-horse.
“I did hear them call their child Punch, which pleased me mightily, that word having become a word of common use for everything that is thick and short.” —Pepys's Diary.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894