Where does the phrase “proud as Punch” come from and What does it mean?

“Punch” is the chief character, the hump-backed clown, in the comic puppet show, Punch and Judy.

The dialog differs, probably, with every showman, but invariably “Punch” is a pompous vainglorious character who in the end lords it magnificently over his shrewish wife, “Judy,” and is conspicuously pleased or proud over his ultimate victory, thus giving rise to our present expression “proud as Punch”.

Probably there are now few children in America or in England who have ever seen a “Punch and Judy Show,” but before the days of the “movies” these puppet shows were very popular, exhibited at every old-time county fair. The show originated in Naples about 1600, and is attributed to a comedian, Silvio Fiorillo.

In the Italian play, the name of the chief character was Pulcinello; when the show came to England, that name became Punchinello, later contracted to Punch.

The British humorous weekly, Punch, founded in 1841, owes its name to this old comic show and still carries a figure of the old clown on its masthead.