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What does “everything's gone pear-shaped” mean?

What is the origin and meaning of "pear shaped", as in "this situation is about to go pear shaped"

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marked as duplicate by Marthaª, coleopterist, ghoppe, Gnawme, tchrist Sep 25 '12 at 21:57

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There's quite a good discussion in Wikipedia –  Andrew Leach Sep 24 '12 at 18:03
    
+1 Interesting. Never ran across that one. –  StoneyB Sep 24 '12 at 18:10

2 Answers 2

The meaning is simply "gone wrong".

As to the origin: nobody knows.

There is a short discussion of it on the normally reliable World Wide Words here

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I don't think it means just "gone wrong", I think usually implies "gone wrong in a very bad way, and very quickly". –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 24 '12 at 18:01
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Possibly. The OED says "to go (badly) wrong, " - with the "badly" in brackets. –  Colin Fine Sep 24 '12 at 22:03
    
I have never seen it used for things that went "mildly badly". It is not quite as bad as things going "apocalypticly badly" but it's usually a step firmly in that direction. I think I even saw a reference to something going pear-shaped, and using the exponential curve of the pear to illustrate why the situation was pear-shaped, instead of, say apple-shaped (I wish I could remember where I saw/heard that). –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 25 '12 at 1:12

In BE the usual meaning of "pear-shaped" is simply that something has gone wrong; there is little implication of degree. I have always understood the phrase to refer to a circle (as in the form of a wheel) becoming distorted into uselessness.

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