‘up to pussy’s bow’: meanings and origin

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

This phrase refers to a large floppy bow worn at the neck.

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

1-: From a clue to a crossword puzzle, published in The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria) of Saturday 25th November 1944:

Full right up to pussy’s bow (6).

(The solution, published in The Argus of Saturday 2nd December 1944, was Gorged.)

2-: 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.

3-: From Lily on the Dustbin: Slang of Australian Women and Families (Penguin Books Australia Ltd., 1982), by the Australian author Nancy Keesing (1923-1993):

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!).

4-: From a letter published in The Sun-Herald (Sydney, New South Wales) of Sunday 18th July 1982:

My sister-in-law says that not only are people allergic to cheese and eggs like she is, but that some can’t eat chocolate, fish, bananas, strawberries and many other things. You name it. It’s just as well Adam wasn’t allergic to Eve.
Most of this recent allergy stuff is in the mind. I can eat chocolate, eggs, cheese and strawberries till I’m up to pussy’s bow.

5-: From Stories from Suburban Road: An Autobiographical Collection, 1920-1939 (Fremantle (Western Australia): Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1983), by the Australian author Thomas Arthur Guy Hungerford (1915-2011):

I got swamped up to pussy’s bow with their troubles, and I hated asking them as much as they hated it.

6-: From Feeding frenzy, by Richard Stubbs, published in The Age (Melbourne, Victoria) of Friday 11th October 1985:

After the main course I was asked did I want more? “No, no, not me. Really, two lentils and a tiny chop fill me right up to the pussy’s bow. Thanks but no.” Of course I was ravenous.

7-: From Pushed from the Wings: An Entertainment (Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1986), by the Australian academic, historian, novelist, secularist and political commentator Ross Fitzgerald (born 1944):

The Director-General, Barry Ian, is another of Mr Horton’s friends, if you get my drift. Even though Barry’s only been Head for a few months, he’s already up to pussy’s bow.

8-: From this advertisement for Nepean Consulting Group, published in The Age (Melbourne, Victoria) of Saturday 18th July 1987:


9-: From Remembrance: A Daughter’s Story (Sydney: William Collins Pty Ltd., 1988), by Faith Richmond:

My father asked Nurse Collins politely one night after dinner if she’d had enough to eat and she touched her white throat and laughed:
‘Oh yes thank you sir – up to pussy’s bow.’

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