‘up to dolly’s wax’: meanings and origin

The Australian-English phrase up to dolly’s wax means:
– to the greatest possible extent;
– sated with food.
—Synonym: up to pussy’s bow.

The Australian author Nancy Keesing (1923-1993) explained the origin of the phrase up to dolly’s wax in Lily on the Dustbin: Slang of Australian Women and Families (Penguin Books Australia Ltd., 1982):

When my children were small a man, then in his eighties, sat back from our table after lunch and announced, ‘I’m full up to dolly’s wax!’ It had to be explained that dolls once had delicate, modelled wax heads with a neck shaped so that it could be sewn to a stuffed rag body. ‘Full up to dolly’s wax’, therefore, meant the same as ‘full up to pussy’s bow’, ‘full to the neckline’ or, as their grandmother often said, ‘QFRTB’ (Quite full, ready to bust!). Dolls have not had wax heads for so long that it seems likely the phrase dates from at least the eighteenth century.

These are the earliest occurrences of the phrase up to dolly’s wax that I have found, in chronological order:

1-: From The Candid Friend, by Guy Smith, published in the Dubbo Dispatch and Wellington Independent (Dubbo, New South Wales) of Saturday 3rd July 1909:

‘I suppose you are really fond of Mamie?’
‘Fond,—that’s a tame word.’
‘Don’t think much of it myself—ah coom fra Lancashire mysen—but what I mean is she fills your heart, what?—Right up to Dolly’s wax, eh?’
‘Where’s that?’
‘That where the sawdust leaves off, and it gets hard.’
‘Elegantly phrased.’
‘And when she’s away and you’re away, you feel an almighty vacuum?’
‘Heartrendingly accurate.’

2-: From the column Talk on ’Change, by ‘Woomera’, published in The Australasian (Melbourne, Victoria) of Saturday 14th March 1914:

I’m in with the society for the protection of pure English right up to Dolly’s wax. It’s up to all of us, indeed, who won’t fight out of our class in literature to butt in with them neck and brisket. In future, any jingles that are not crowded out of Talk on ’Change by the editor will be in the Chaucerian vein, even though the spelling seems a bit cronk.

3-: From Peace and Harmony?, a rather obscure text published in the Alexandra and Yea Standard and Yarck, Gobur, Thornton, Taggerty and Acheron Express (Alexandra, Victoria) of Friday 11th March 1921:

What goes on is enough to fill anyone right up to where dolly’s wax head is sewn on to the sawdust. It is not the individual, it is the “system” that is anathema; though cases are known, even in Aquatania, when the “system” caused high temperatures, and racing pulsations in the wax-sawdust regions, that precedent may lead to the highest chair—not necessarily on the roof—in the adjoining State of Veearch.

4-: From Australia Must Prepare For Peace: Severe Economic Slump Might Follow End Of War Unless Industries Protected, published in Smith’s Weekly (Sydney, New South Wales) of Saturday 4th November 1939:

According to all signs, the Commonwealth will be a rich country while Economic War goes on. Though Australia will be taxed “up to dolly’s wax,” balances in her favor will pile up in Britain and abroad. Industry within the Commonwealth will be intensified.

5-: From the column Books of the Day, by Erle Cox, published in The Australasian (Melbourne, Victoria) of Saturday 10th July 1943:

Some Simple Things
There are new books on economics, new books by pundits laying down the law as to how the world must be reshaped after the World War is over (few of these are in agreement on any points), there are books on this and books on that about past, present, and future international relations—all deadly dull, and probably based on inaccurate knowledge. And I am fed up to dolly’s wax with them. It was a relief, therefore, to come on a reflective book on simple little things.

6-: From The Australian Language (Sydney and London: Angus and Robertson Ltd., 1945), by Sidney John Baker (1912-1976):

Among nursery expressions which have acquired a fairly stabilized currency in this country are googy-egg for an egg; to see Mrs Murray, to urinate or defecate; big fire and little fire, which describe defecation and urination respectively; and the catchphrase, up to pussy’s bow and dolly’s wax, to denote a surfeit, especially of food.

7-: From a 1965 monologue, published in A Nice Night’s Entertainment: Sketches and Monologues 1956–1981 (St Albans & London: Granada, 1981), by the Australian comedian Barry Humphries (born 1934)—as quoted by mickeytales:

On top of the pudding Beryl had made a delicious fruit salad which she’d put in the big cut-crystal bowl she keeps for best. She’s had it for years now but it’s still got the Dunklings sticker on it. However, everyone was full up to dolly’s wax and I was absolutely stonkered, so unfortunately it was hardly touched and Beryl said it was a wicked shame after all the fag she’d gone to.

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