[Ads-l] "go pear-shaped"

Sun Oct 26 20:06:39 UTC 2014

It seems to be a popular phrase in British sources and to have moved to Commonwealth and Irish sources as well, but I haven't seen it in American use, with the possible exception of Jon's example.  It starts showing up in mainstream British databases in the mid-1990s.  Possibly it refers to the poorer performance that may be expected from older athletes who have gained weight; see this example from the South China Morning Post (Apr. 16, 1995) (NewsBank):

"Look around any office, bar or restaurant and you'll see people who have been sucked in by Hong Kong's easy living - sad people who once had something to offer and have now lost it, gone pear-shaped, got out of touch."

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Laurence Horn
Sent: Sunday, October 26, 2014 9:02 AM
Subject: Re: "go pear-shaped"

I've seen it only in British sources, but here's the OED entry, which just has it as chiefly Brit.:

 3. colloq. (chiefly Brit., orig. R.A.F. slang). to go (also turn) pear-shaped : to go (badly) wrong, to go awry.

1983   J. Ethell & A. Price Air War South Atlantic 158   There were two bangs very close together. The whole aircraft shook and things went 'pear-shaped' very quickly after that. The controls ceased to work, the nose started to go down.
1989   Air Forces Monthly Feb. 53/2   When a disadvantaged fighter manages to manoeuvre back into a neutral position, it is a sign to the attacker that things are already going pear-shaped.
1995   FourFourTwo Sept. 108/1   The day itself was one of those prize-winningly crappy days when everything went pear shaped.
1999   J. Cassidy Street Life 118   Next we travelled to Bournemouth and it was there that things began to turn rather pear-shaped.


On Oct 26, 2014, at 7:19 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> Wha'?
> 'Go bad,' for some reason. (Not just figuratively "sag into into a pear
> shape," as one might imagine.)
> http://www.thefilmpie.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3100:review-lone-survivor&catid=36:reviews
> :
> This mission, described in the film as one with "a lot of moving parts",
> went pear shaped after the four men lost their communications and were then
> seen by a goat herder and his two young sons.
> JL
> -- 
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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