Posted by James Briggs on December 25, 2003
In Reply to: Archives on pear-shaped posted by R. Berg on December 25, 2003
: : : : "When things go pear-shaped" apparently means something goes wrong or turns out in some unexpected way. Google has only a few hundred hits. Cecking several it seems to be used in many contexts; software, soccar and the spiritual life.
: : : : Any thoughts on when, where or why "when things go pear-shaped" originated.
: : : Typing "pear" in the Search the Archives box will produce the explanation.
: : Typing "pear" in the Search the Archives box produces dozens of redundant instructions to go search the archives and one paragraph about airplanes which doesn't add much explain why it would be used in such a wide variety of contexts today as a google search on gone pear shaped and airplane doesn't find much either. BTW, why do we have to search the archives of a phrase board using a single word?
: All those instructions to search the archives are there because many people asked the question anew when the archived explanation was available.
: You can search using two words, such as "pear" and "gone." I suggested "pear" after trying it: the aeronautic explanation came up first when I used that word alone.
: As "it's all gone pear-shaped" is apparently a British expression, you might get better results if you wait a few hours until the English are awake. I'm in the U.S., and I don't hear people use the saying. My understanding is that it originated with reference to plane trajectories that degrade from their ideal shape; but why it entered general use, who can say? Lots of phrases start in some technical field and become popular, and other phrases used in a technical field remain confined to it.
To go pear shaped is an expression used to indicate that a scheme has not been perfectly executed. The phrase seems to have originated in British English in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I have come across several suggested origins, but the best, for me, is related to training aircraft pilots. At some stage they are encouraged to try to fly loops - very difficult to make perfectly circular; often the trainee pilot?s loops would go pear shaped. The expression then spread into general usage.