phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at


Posted by R. Berg on July 09, 2007

In Reply to: Unhappy babies posted by Lewis on July 09, 2007

: : : : : : : : : What does the phrase "threw their dolly of the pram" reference and what does it mean exactly? Here is the sentence in which I found this phrase:

: : : : : : : : : It is hardly surprising, then, that when someone came along and challenged the version of history on which their new-found importance in society was to be based, they threw their dolly out of the pram, as the prison wardens in the prison in which I worked used to put it to describe the actions of a prisoner who had lost his temper.

: : : : : : : : In my experience "threw their toys out of the pram" is more common. It means they responded to frustration with an irrational and seemingly dispropotionate outburst; like a baby repeatedly throwing away everything it can get its hands on. A less common variation is "spat out their dummy"

: : : : : : : Sorry for the spelling error Ahmad Ragab - dispropotionate should, of course, be disproportionate. I'm sure you will have guessed that but I had to come back because ESC's answer reminds me you might be more at home with US English and not understand the word 'dummy', which is a rubber teat that a baby is given to suck on. I think it's called a 'comforter' in the US.

: : : : : : It's called a pacifier in the U.S. ~rb

: : : : : Also a "fooler" and a "chew-chee." But that may just be a family thing.

: : : : "Spat the dummy" (past tense "Did/Had a dummy spit") and "All toys out of the cot" (e.g. when Brian found out it was all toys out of the cot)are commmon in Australia. I haven't heard the pram version. Pamela

: : : I have never heard an American version of this. Odd, because it seems useful. I would expect a baby here to be in a crib, or a playpen.

: : "Pram" is a British short form for "perambulator" - carriage or stroller, I don't know which. American babies travel in prams, too; we just don't call them that. ~rb

: the key feature of these expressions is that the metaphor is of a child over-reacting - whether spitting out his "dummy"(a rubber teat-shaped object with various names) or throwing away toys - either from his baby-buggy/pram or from his cot (which incidentally is a word for 'bed' which wasn't just applied to a child's bed until relatively recently - anybody notice when the transition happened?).

: the important aspect is that it is a violent over-reaction, lacking in any adult self-scrutiny.

: L

Lewis, the usage of "cot" differs over here. We don't call infants' beds cots, at least in my dialect. A cot (U.S.) is a minimal bed, perhaps a folding one that you bring out for an overnight guest, or a cheap one provided in large numbers for children at summer camp or army recruits. A first-aid station at a large public event might have cots for people who fall unconscious or need to lie down. ~rb

  • Cot Lewis 16/July/07