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What Are The Weirdest Terms For Being Pregnant?

Recently, Facebook changed their rules slightly to prevent the mention of pregnancy for boosted posts. Which got us thinking: What are the most fun, bizarre, or downright wrong idioms we use for being pregnant?

The rabbit died

Here’s one of the weirder ones, and the history behind it is even worse than the phrase! Turns out it comes from an early type of pregnancy test that was performed in Europe and North America: This involved injecting a woman’s urine into a rabbit. If pregnant, the rabbit would show hormonal and ovarian differences. Technically the pregnancy test did work, but not only would the rabbit die with a positive test, it would actually die either way. We would recommend that you save the bunnies and stick to modern pregnancy tests please: They’re easier to decipher anyway.

In the family way

This is definitely one for your great-grandmother, but you hear it a lot in period movies like Little Women. It was particularly popular in the 1700s, when being pregnant was the sort of thing that would only be talked about in hushed terms before a woman entered ‘confinement’ before the birth. If they were feeling particularly daring, they might have also said ‘with child’.

Bun in the oven

A classic saying, this is on the right side of fun versus offensive; and can be a good way of lightening the big moment when you announce the news, for those of you who find making any big announcement weirdly awkward! The saying apparently comes from North America around the 1940s. It first appears in print in 1951 naval novel The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat. I don’t think we need to explain it, both babies and buns take time before they’re ready to come out (although maybe ‘cake in the oven’ would be even better?

Bat in the cave

More often used nowadays to politely tell someone they have snot lurking in their nose, it was news to us that this can also be a slang term for pregnancy. Then again, as babies are often upside down in the womb, maybe it does make a certain amount of sense. It doesn’t quite sell the positivity though, does it?

Stung by a serpent

Nothing like a classic mix of biblical reference to sin, and penis euphemism, eh?

Preggers/Preggo

Not just a classic line from Juno, these British/Australian acronyms had their heyday in the 90s and 00s, but maybe they're due a come-back.

Tin roof, rusted

Winner of the most obscure saying! “You’re what?!” “Tin roof, rusted” appears in the B-52’s song Love Shack: Though the band deny the claims, it keeps popping up nonetheless. The Urban Dictionary claims that like some of our other contenders, it refers to an unplanned pregnancy. e.g. ‘Shaina's tin roof got rusted.’ I can’t help but think there are easier, and nicer ways to say it.

Eating for two

It’s hard to argue that this is what’s going on, although it’s more about quality than quantity so (sadly) you don’t need to double your intake even if it does feel that way sometimes.

Pea in the pod

Finally, one that makes a bit more sense! It would be even more suitable for anyone expecting multiple babies, although I’m not sure they develop in quite such a neat line as peas: It certainly won’t feel like it!

In the pudding club

Though this sounds similar to having a bun in the oven, it has a rather less positive origin. It comes from having ‘her belly full of marrow,’ which then changed from marrow to pudding over the years; and referred to impregnation rather than the growing baby. But though it was almost certainly invented down the pub after a few too many pints, maybe it’s time to reclaim the saying – can you imagine yourself proudly announcing ‘I’m in the pudding club?’ Maybe with the inevitable weight gain that comes with pregnancy it could be misconstrued.

Up the duff

As you may imagine, this term for being pregnant comes from Australia, and was first seen in print in the 1941 edition of the Australian Book of Slang. Though its specific origins are uncertain, it may refer to duff in the sense of a pudding boiled or steamed in a cloth bag (which began life as Northern English pronunciation of ‘dough) so we’re back to baking once again! Soccer fans can also phrase it 'Up the Damien' in honour of the great Damien Duff.

Wearing the bustle wrong

Unless you’re an extra in Ripper Street/Penny Dreadful, then you’re unlikely to be able to slip this one into conversation. A bustle was an article of clothing popular in the mid-to-late 19th century. It sat under the dress like an underskirt emphasise the bottom, like a less comfortable version of the padded shorts you can get now for the Kardashian look. Because the bustle was fitted to the waist with a boost at the back, ‘wearing the bustle wrong’ meant that space needed to be switched to the front. Let’s be honest, it would be tricky to fit it on at all!

Up the pole

Yes, there seem to be a lot of ‘up the…’ terms for pregnancy, but this one has a very literary history: The earliest known reference to ‘up the pole’ as an idiom for ‘pregnant’ is found in James Joyce’s classic, Ulysses.

In pig

Not entirely respectful, this is one of several references that compares pregnant women to pregnant animals, including in foalin calf, and in pup. Frankly we’d prefer ‘in pup’ had taken off instead, but one of the best known and earliest examples comes from Nancy Mitford’s 1945 novel The Pursuit of Love. The Danish prefer a fishier version, with ‘at være med rogn’ (‘to be with roe’).

What-Are-The-Weirdest-Terms-For-Being-Pregnant-knocked-up.gif

Knocked up

A saying so famous it got its own film, ‘knocked up’ has been around over two centuries. It was first cited in the 1800s, with the horrendous connotation that after an auctioneer ‘knocked down’ a slave (aka sold her) and the purchaser would knock her up. Can’t say I feel the same about the phrase after learning that.

Harbouring a Fugitive

Thought you might need a laugh after the last one!

Bacon in the drawer

Possibly the most entertaining idiom (though the meaning is a little less clear), this comes from the French saying ‘un lardon dans le tiroir.’ Like so many others, it was most popular when more explicit discussion of pregnancy was too risqué to mention, and people were happier to say that babies came from storks. A variation of this was ‘un Polichinelle dans le tiroir.’ A Polichinelle is the French term for Commedia Dell’arte character Pulcinella (like Punch in Punch & Judy), and an open secret was also known as a ‘secret de Polichinelle.’

So what are your favourites? Are there any you actually use? We'd love to hear.


About the Author

Emily is our Digital Editor. She has three awesome nieces, and has accidentally worn the same outfit as them on at least one occasion. Emily likes making things, including hand-drawn cards, and a darn good chocolate cake. She still sounds very English, despite living in Dublin for the last nine years. More insight into the workings of her brain can be found on dancingcakesandsilence.blogspot.com.

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