[Ads-l] New to me: "go pear-shaped"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue May 10 10:41:42 UTC 2016


> On May 9, 2016, at 11:10 PM, Douglas G. Wilson <douglas at NB.NET> wrote:
> 
> On 5/9/2016 5:12 PM, Ben Zimmer wrote:
>> On Mon, May 9, 2016 at 2:35 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>> 
>>> On May 9, 2016, at 2:03 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>>> Heard on an NCIS re-run a minute ago. About 118,000 hits. Definitions range
>>>> from the OD to the UD.
>>>> 
>>>> Clearly, I'm behind the curve, again.
>>> Veddy British, no?  Has it invaded the Colonies?
>> Just a bit: https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__britishisms.wordpress.com_2012_11_09_go-2Dpear-2Dshaped_&d=AwICaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=sb87BEXyBH4DXpEqhNoSU1cfeNTE0MBEc4mOWZ7geo0&s=_sLmX_6oQ4_9wIRtaGrc9hr357xPal9W0jcPV95XxRw&e= 
> --
> 
> My idle etymological speculation:
> 
> "go belly-up" ---> "go tits-up" (because certain speakers generally preferred the word 'tits')
> 
> ---> "go pear-shaped tits up" (somewhat arbitrary elaboration for fun or emphasis ["pear-shaped" an old conventional adjective, I think, before "breasts" etc.])
> 
> ---> "go pear-shaped" (abbreviated, maybe euphemistic, fun [maybe etymologically opaque to some 'outsiders'], conceivably from a reanalysis with a comma after "pear-shaped")
> 
> [My presumed elaborated form "go pear-shaped tits up" I find on the Web only once, and late (2015).]
> 
> I don't know whether my speculation duplicates someone else's earlier suggestion.
> 
No, Doug, I expect your derivation is original with you.

LH

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