Today I overheard a discussion of some refurbishment works that have gone ‘pear-shaped‘. I was delighted to learn a brand-new expression, but, come to think of it, I’ve definitely heard it before. All the more reason to explore it in greater detail!
To go pear-shaped means to become unsuccessful, I’d say it’s almost the same as ‘go awry’ (but sounds so much funnier).
As to its origin, as usual, there are several theories. One of them attributes the origin of the phrase to RAF slang – at some stage pilots they are encouraged to try to fly loops – very difficult to make perfectly circular; often the trainee pilot’s loops would go pear shaped (Phrases.org.uk).
Would you care for some pear-shaped examples?
– It is hard when you start out being too pally with your builders and then step back when everything starts to go pear-shaped (Sunday Times).
– A new American bail-out finally appears to be ready. The programme could potentially cost (if everything went utterly pear-shaped) between $1 trillion and $2 trillion (The Economist).
– The first episode more than lived up to expectations with some tense claustrophobic photography and fast-paced action; until the last five minutes, when I had a horrible sense that the whole show was about to go seriously pear-shaped (The Guardian).