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  1. #1
    Olympian is offline Member
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    Default 'The communication went pear-shaped'

    Hello,

    the following is from a news story about a birthday cake being rejected by LeBron James. (LeBron James, it turns out, is a famous basketball player in the US).

    1. Then the cake, and the communication between Hickman and Galbut, went a bit pear-shaped:

    2.
    It seems like she was more than willing to allow for the loss of income just to be associated with a star; they have names for people who do these sorts of things, and we shouldn't feel too bad when she was the one who signed off on giving a free birthday cake to LeBron in the first place.

    a. The Wikipedia meaning of 'pear-shaped' came up as "The third meaning is mostly limited to the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australasia. It describes a situation that went awry, perhaps horribly wrong." Is it a bit strange that this phrase is used to describe an event associated with a US spots figure? Do people in the US understand the meaning? I am sure they can guess from the context, but would they know without context?

    b. What are the names being referred to (implied ?) in 2 above? Fan? Sycophant? Self-seeker?

    Thank you



  2. #2
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: 'The communication went pear-shaped'

    I had never heard "pear-shaped" used like this. I wouldn't know what was meant.

    I think "fan" is the generous term. "Sycophant" or "suck up" would be not as kind.

  3. #3
    Olympian is offline Member
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    Default Re: 'The communication went pear-shaped'

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    I had never heard "pear-shaped" used like this. I wouldn't know what was meant.

    I think "fan" is the generous term. "Sycophant" or "suck up" would be not as kind.
    @SoothingDave, thank you.
    So, by not stating a particular word (such as 'fan' or 'sycophant'), they leave it up to the reader? Depending upon how generous or how unkind the readers mind is at that time, that particular word would pop up?

  4. #4
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: 'The communication went pear-shaped'

    They may have had even more rude words in mind. I don't think they intended a neutral word, they meant it as an insult.

  5. #5
    JMurray is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: 'The communication went pear-shaped'

    In Aust/NZ I would read "went a bit pear-shaped" in this context as meaning: went wrong, deteriorated, took a turn for the worse.

    not a teacher

  6. #6
    Olympian is offline Member
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    Default Re: 'The communication went pear-shaped'

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    They may have had even more rude words in mind. I don't think they intended a neutral word, they meant it as an insult.
    @SoothingDave, thank you.

  7. #7
    Olympian is offline Member
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    Default Re: 'The communication went pear-shaped'

    Quote Originally Posted by JMurray View Post
    In Aust/NZ I would read "went a bit pear-shaped" in this context as meaning: went wrong, deteriorated, took a turn for the worse.

    not a teacher
    @JMurray, thanks. I saw in the Wikipedia definition that it in Australia/NZ, it means something went wrong. Thanks for confirming.

  8. #8
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: 'The communication went pear-shaped'

    Same in the UK.

  9. #9
    BobSmith is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: 'The communication went pear-shaped'

    Quote Originally Posted by Olympian View Post
    @SoothingDave, thank you.
    So, by not stating a particular word (such as 'fan' or 'sycophant'), they leave it up to the reader? Depending upon how generous or how unkind the readers mind is at that time, that particular word would pop up?
    [not a teacher]

    You are exactly right. "they have names for people who do these sorts of things" is a way for the writer to sling an insult without being culpable for it, but it is also left to the reader to decide how much of an insult. It's a growing trend in the US, but is very informal, and would never appear in a straight-up news piece.

    Another similar example might be “I have two words for you!” and then the two words are left unsaid, up to the listener to interpret, almost certainly as an insult. OR, the speaker actually follows up with something unexpected, perhaps not insulting, like “Thank you!”

    And, BTW, I have never seen or heard “pear-shaped” used in the US (only from my friends from over the pond ).

  10. #10
    Barb_D's Avatar
    Barb_D is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: 'The communication went pear-shaped'

    Yet another one I would never have understood before this forum. That's a new expression for me.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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