Pear-shaped

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Pear
Pomological Watercolor POM00006921.jpg
A European pear, also known as the common pear.

Pear-shaped is a metaphorical term with several meanings, all in reference to the shape of a (European) pear, i.e. tapering towards the top.

Body shape[edit]

The comparison is more or less literal when the term is applied to people, where it means narrow at the shoulders and wide at the hips, a use that goes back to at least 1815,[1] and one that can have either positive connotations (as in Venus figurines) or negative, depending upon the context.

Voice[edit]

In the 20th century, another, more abstract use of the term evolved. When said of someone's voice, "pear-shaped" means rich and sonorous.[1] The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) dates this use to 1925.

Failure[edit]

The third meaning is mostly limited to the United Kingdom,[1], also Ireland, South Africa and Australasia.[citation needed] It describes a situation that went awry, perhaps horribly so. A failed bank robbery, for example, could be said to have "gone pear-shaped". The origin for this use of the term is in dispute. The OED cites its origin as within the Royal Air Force[1] as a cleaned-up alternative version of its phrase "tits-up" meaning completely broken or dead; as of 2018 the earliest citation there is a quote in the 1983 book Air War South Atlantic.[2]

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "pear-shaped". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ Jeffrey L. Ethell, Alfred Price (1983). Air War South Atlantic. Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 0-283-99035-X.