The Duchess has a bun in the oven

After yesterday’s official announcement from St James’s Palace that the Duchess of Cambridge is carrying a future British monarch in her belly (and this is the first time in British history that one can say that about a right royal pregnancy), the news is spreading fast and furiously. Which words and expressions are the chattering and other classes using to describe our Kate’s ‘delicate’ condition?


“knocked up”:  The OED traces the American slang expression to 1813. It cites an 1836 reference to slave women who are “knocked down by the auctioneer and knocked up by the purchaser.” The Online Etymology Dictionary suggests it derives from the slang word knock, meaning “to copulate with” (1598; cf. slang knocking-shop “brothel” 1860)

“has a bun in the oven”: an expression that appears to date back to the early- or mid-20th century. Literary references go back to the 1950s. ( cites Nicholas Monsarrat’s Cruel Sea, 1951: “‘I bet you left a bun in the oven, both of you,’ said Bennett thickly… Lockhart explained … the reference to pregnancy.)

“in the club”, “in the pudding club”: pudding is an old slang word, probably dating back to the 18th century, for penis; by 1890, Barrère & Leland in their Dictionary of Slang defined the term “pudding club”:”A woman in the family way is said to be in the pudding club.”

“up the duff”: see above; dough is another word for pudding, and duff is an alternative form and pronunciation of dough

“she’s wearing the bustle wrong” (old Western slang)

“Keith Cheggars” (Cockney rhyming slang: Cheggars = preggars)

“up the pole” or “up the stick”: the most famous use of this phrase (“up the pole”) is James Joyce in his Ulysses of 1918:”That red Carlisle girl? Is she up the pole? Better ask Seymour that.” All early usages of “up the pole” in print (meaning pregnant) come from Dublin writers, so it’s probably an Irish expression

“tin roof rusted”: after condom failure from puncture (used in the song Love Shack by the B-52s, but its origin is unclear)

“up the spout”: British slang from the early 19th century meaning ruined, failed or lost; probably refers to pawnbrokers and their means of storing and retrieving items for pawning through a chute or early dumbwaiter: “spouting” meant pawning, and if an item was pawned, it was said to be “up the spout”

“sprogged up” (British slang; sprog is British slang for kid or baby)

“she killed the rabbit”, “the rabbit died“: Myth has it that an old and primitive form of pregnancy test involved injecting a rabbit with a woman’s urine, with the rabbit’s death indicating a positive (ie. pregnant) result. It is true that rabbits were injected with women’s urine to test for pregnancy, but not that the rabbit’s death in itself was an indicator; in the 1920s scientists discovered that if the injected urine contained HCG (a hormone present in pregnant women), the rabbit would display ovarian changes and it would therefore be killed to have its ovaries examined.

“on stork watch”

“in a fix”

“with child”


“in a/the family way”

“in the motherly way”

“eating for two”

“preggers”, “preggo”, “prego”

“caught short” or “caught out”

Can you think of any other words or expressions that I’ve missed? Please feel free to add them to the comments section below.

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