Posted by James Briggs on February 21, 2002
In Reply to: Come a cropper posted by R. Berg on February 21, 2002
: : I heard this phrase used by a Brit member of a crew filming wildlife in Africa. Contextually, the phrase implied serious injury or death resulting from a mistake. The archives list the phrase in a thread on euphemisms for bungling. Is "come a cropper" just a euphemism for bungling or do other meanings exist?
: It originated as a term for a bad fall.
: Oxford Engl. Dict.:
: CROPPER. [perh. from phrase "neck and crop."] A heavy fall; usually in phr. "come (fall, get) a cropper"; often fig.
: 1858 . . . [He] rode at an impracticable fence, and got a cropper for his pains. 1877 . . . My horse put his foot in a hole and came down a cropper.
: NECK AND CROP [listed under NECK]: bodily, completely, altogether.
To come a cropper implies that there has been a tumble, either actual or metaphorical. The saying is based on horse riding where to fall neck and crop means that the horse has hit the ground with both its neck and its crop; ie a potentially serious accident.
See also: the meaning and origin of 'come a cropper'.