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Orange Skinner
08-07-2003, 12:01 AM
I’ve wondered about this for sometime. Does anyone know how we wound up with the expression “the shit has hit the fan?”

tomndebb
08-07-2003, 12:27 AM
I am not sure what the puzzle is.
I have no idea who coined it, but I would think that it's meaning was sufficiently clear. Throwing something soft, easily frangible, and sticky into a rapidly spinning object is going to cause the thrown substance to be splattered out in all directions. Since it is sticky, it will cling to anything it touches, making cleanup a real problem. Given that it is inherently repellent, it is going to be even more abhorent that it is splattered across the floor, walls, ceiling, furniture, and any person or animal unfortunate enough to be in the way.

And, as long as the fan continues to spin, it is going to continue to make more of a mess, since some of it will continue sticking to the fan blades for quite a while.

Neither the Word Maven nor the Word Detective happens to address it, yet.

don't ask
08-07-2003, 01:03 AM
From Eric Partridge, "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British":
Leechman says that it is 'a catch phrase indicative of grave or exciting consequences': Can. and U.S: since c. 1930. . . . Dr Leechman adds that 'the allusion is to the consequences of throwing this material into an electric fan'. But the orig. ref., as Norman Franklin reminds me, 1976, is to the agricultural muck-spreader. . . .
Wentworth & Flexner ["A Dictionary of American Slang"] cite an anecdotal origin [remembered independently by Robert Claiborne, Prof. Anthony Brown, and Paul Beale, covering mid 1930s - mid '50s], which is perhaps valid: a guest, unable to find the w.c., uses a hole in the bathroom floor and on rejoining the party, is asked, 'Where were you when the shit hit the fan?' according to Phrase Finder (http://phrases.shu.ac.uk/bulletin_board/17/messages/683.html).

Squink
08-07-2003, 01:04 AM
samclem'll probably nail this with a direct quote from Edison or some such, however, Partridge's "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British" dates the phrase (http://phrases.shu.ac.uk/bulletin_board/17/messages/683.html) to ~1930. 'a catch phrase indicative of grave or exciting consequences'
...
'the allusion is to the consequences of throwing this material into an electric fan'. But the orig. ref., as Norman Franklin reminds me, 1976, is to the agricultural muck-spreader. . . .

Orange Skinner
08-07-2003, 01:13 AM
Sorry I wasn't more clear, Tomndebb, I get the intended meaning of the expression just fine. It's the result (which you so nicely elaborated on), that's alwaysmade me like the phrase, because it's so apt.

What I was wondering what was who had come up with it originally, or at least, when was it first brought into common usuage? (Sometime after the invention of fans, obviously). I should have made the OP a little more specific.





[sub]Oh, and consequently, I'm from NE Ohio, myself...where abouts are you from, if you don't mind my asking?[/sub?]

Orange Skinner
08-07-2003, 01:17 AM
Thanks for date, Squink and don't ask. Much obliged.

If anybody does have a (more) direct quote (or perhaps the area where it originated) that'd be great.

kniz
08-07-2003, 01:17 AM
The link Squink just posted mentions the joke I believe started the whole thing.

A man runs into a restaurant and frantically asks a waitor where the restrooms are. The waitor says "It is upstairs to your right." The man runs up the stairs and enters the door on the left. There is nothing in the room, except a hole in the middle of the room. He is in no condition to question this arrangement for a restroom and does his business down the hole.

Much relieved he walks down the stairs and the waitor yells to him. "Little old man so spic and span, where were you when the shit hit the fan?"

tomndebb
08-07-2003, 01:36 AM
But the orig. ref., as Norman Franklin reminds me, 1976, is to the agricultural muck-spreader. . . . I find this suspicious on two counts: muck spreaders date back to the nineteenth century, so why would it take until 1930 to pick up the expression(?) and I have never heard of a spreader referred to as a fan (either by my farming in-laws or by the farmer next to whom I lived for a couple of years*). I think a reference to electric fans, that only became popular as the country was wired for electricity, rather more probable.

*(Spreaders are impressive in their ability to throw shit, but they tend to have some control over where it lands and, as I noted, I've never heard one called a fan.)

Orange, I'm on the southern tier of Geauga County along U.S. 422.

green_bladder
08-07-2003, 07:13 AM
HAH, I'm remembering the 'shit's-gonna-hit-the-fan' scene in Airplane. Took me about and hour to recover from that one ;)

green_bladder
08-07-2003, 07:14 AM
...about an hour...

Bakhesh
08-07-2003, 08:50 AM
Originally posted by tomndebb
I am not sure what the puzzle is.
I have no idea who coined it, but I would think that it's meaning was sufficiently clear. Throwing something soft, easily frangible, and sticky into a rapidly spinning object is going to cause the thrown substance to be splattered out in all directions. Since it is sticky, it will cling to anything it touches, making cleanup a real problem. Given that it is inherently repellent, it is going to be even more abhorent that it is splattered across the floor, walls, ceiling, furniture, and any person or animal unfortunate enough to be in the way.



I always thought it was a daft expression myself. When the shit hits the fan, obviously it showers everything nearby with shit. However, the expression is when the shit HITS the fan, not when the shit is thrown at the fan. If you waiting for the shit to hit the fan, then that suggests that other shit has been thrown at the fan, but so far it has kept missing.

If your in the fans shit spreading radius, then chances are you're already covered in shit, from all the shit that nearly hit the fan, but missed. The entire area is probably covered in turds. The shit that comes from the fan is probably irrelevant compared to all the other shit lying around.



If Tom Cruise got attacked by a stalker, would this be a case of the fan hitting the shit?

RealityChuck
08-07-2003, 09:06 AM
Originally posted by Bakhesh
I always thought it was a daft expression myself. When the shit hits the fan, obviously it showers everything nearby with shit. However, the expression is when the shit [B]HITS the fan, not when the shit is thrown at the fan. If you waiting for the shit to hit the fan, then that suggests that other shit has been thrown at the fan, but so far it has kept missing.[B] :rolleyes: When the shit it's the fan, it's immediately thrown. Only the most anal would bother to think there was a difference.

And where does it say that an metaphor has to be 100% precise? Does no one understand the concept of "metaphor" any more?

Bakhesh
08-07-2003, 09:13 AM
Originally posted by RealityChuck
:rolleyes: When the shit it's the fan, it's immediately thrown. Only the most anal would bother to think there was a difference.

And where does it say that an metaphor has to be 100% precise? Does no one understand the concept of "metaphor" any more?

Some people have no sense of humour :smack:

samclem
08-08-2003, 03:20 AM
The third and fourth volumes of "Historical Dictionary of American Slang" WILL be published over the next few years. So, we'll just have to wait on that one.

AskNott
08-08-2003, 10:25 AM
That which hits the fan is seldom evenly distributed.
I forget who wrote that; twasn't I.

Lou Chandon
01-03-2012, 09:28 PM
I’ve wondered about this for sometime. Does anyone know how we wound up with the expression “the shit has hit the fan?”
Yes: it's a word twist on "the fit hit the shan".
It seems fellow was charged with watching over a shan who was subject to fits of a sort. So this little man was with the shan one evening at a gala ball & had the call of nature, so to speak. When he finally found a place to do his business he was quite desperate & let 'er rip into a fan that delivered his excrement onto the ball room floor. Everyone was covered in the dreadful elimination, except the little man who was dressed in his usual white suit. The poor shan had an attack of fitfull proportions, as did several other gala attendees. So when the little man appeared in such a neat and white suit it raised the question from the shan's first assistant to ask the little man:
"Little man, so spic and span: where were you when the fit hit the shan"After many years of re-telling the phrase was more succinctly put as" Where were you when the shit hit the fan" or simply to describe the scene of the fit hitting the shan.

Exapno Mapcase
01-03-2012, 09:50 PM
Reginald Bretnor used to write these elaborate puns in the forms of short-short stories featuring a character named Ferdinand Feghoot. They were so popular that the term Feghoot (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Feghoot) is applied to the genre.

Roger Zelazny liked to sneak these into his works. For example, the entire second chapter of his Hugo-winning novel, Lord of Light is an elaborate setup allowing him to finish with the final line "Then the fit hit the Shan."

That was in 1967.

Some of us remember 1967. Some of us also have The Compleat Feghoot (http://www.amazon.com/Compleat-Feghoot-Historys-Greatest-Traveller/dp/0883580195/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325645099&sr=1-5z).

You're a dollar late and a day short.

Leo Bloom
01-03-2012, 10:04 PM
The hippopotamus was doing it millions of years before the expression, by defecating into its spinning tail. (http://www.bigsiteofamazingfacts.com/why-does-the-hippopotamus-fling-its-poop-everywhere-and-how-much-poop-does-it-produce-in-a-day)

Perhaps one was seen by a mammal, later a primate, later us. Now that's cultural memory.

Gary T
01-03-2012, 11:46 PM
...the expression is when the shit HITS the fan...Yes, "hits" as in "arrives at." How it comes to arrive is not specified. Forgive me for saying you're thinking about this way, WAY too hard.

Senegoid
01-04-2012, 03:46 AM
Reginald Bretnor used to write these elaborate puns in the forms of short-short stories featuring a character named Ferdinand Feghoot. They were so popular that the term Feghoot (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Feghoot) is applied to the genre.

These long-winded stories, culminating in some atrocious pun based on a well-known expression, are also commonly known as shaggy dog stories after the old one that ends "I wouldn't send a knight out on a dog like this." You can find a compendium of them at http://www.badpuns.com/ -- Just find the link "Shaggy dog stories" and go there. On the old Candid Camera show, Allen Funt used to tell these from time to time. The comic book "Asterix in Switzerland" begins with a highly contrived one too, that occupies the first 3 or 4 pages of the book.

robert_columbia
01-04-2012, 08:43 AM
That which hits the fan is seldom evenly distributed.
I forget who wrote that; twasn't I.

The shit that can hit a fan is not true shit.

What is the sound of shit hitting a fan?

kferr
01-04-2012, 11:29 AM
If a bear's shit hits a fan in the forest does the Pope hear it?

John Mace
01-04-2012, 11:51 AM
If a bear's shit hits a fan in the forest does the Pope hear it?

Only if it's Zombie shit.

Exapno Mapcase
01-04-2012, 12:38 PM
These long-winded stories, culminating in some atrocious pun based on a well-known expression, are also commonly known as shaggy dog stories after the old one that ends "I wouldn't send a knight out on a dog like this." You can find a compendium of them at http://www.badpuns.com/ -- Just find the link "Shaggy dog stories" and go there. On the old Candid Camera show, Allen Funt used to tell these from time to time. The comic book "Asterix in Switzerland" begins with a highly contrived one too, that occupies the first 3 or 4 pages of the book.

Shaggy dog stories and Feghoots are entirely separate classes of jokes. The classic shaggy dog story is very long and often arrives at an anticlimactic conclusion, the point being to frustrate the listener after the interminable build-up leads one to expect a gigantic ringing note of an ending. Feghoots are always very short and always lead to a specific example of a sentence-long pun.

Your cite has it totally wrong. TVTropes (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ShaggyDogStory) has it correct. You'll have to believe me when I say that I wrote my post first before linking there, but our definitions are essentially identical.

Qadgop the Mercotan
01-04-2012, 12:53 PM
The ship hit the sand.

The ship hit the span.

Anybody else got any clean euphemisms for the OP's phrase? Besides Zelazny?

janeslogin
01-04-2012, 01:02 PM
The joke in response #7 spread through my grade school in 1946-48 or so.

JoelUpchurch
01-04-2012, 02:09 PM
Anybody else got any clean euphemisms for the OP's phrase? Besides Zelazny?

To paraphase The Big Bang Theory:

When the waste material contacts the spinning turbine.

http://the-big-bang-theory.com/quotes/episode/222/The-Classified-Materials-Turbulence/

pdunderhill
01-04-2012, 03:12 PM
If you had been there you might understand,
I was a very bad chef in NY, NY twenty years ago horrible job, the tales I could tell you!
Anyway we had an explosive Sewer explosion in the Kitchen, literally everything covered with sh1t and the Rats who were also blown out of the drains, (sorry no Alligators, urban myth), meal was served to a certain RG Mayor of NY.
Hey Ho. Happy 2012

aceplace57
01-04-2012, 03:38 PM
Ever have a fan outside on the deck or in the yard?

Bird flies by and ....

nuff said. ;) It can happen.

BrotherCadfael
01-04-2012, 04:57 PM
It has been noted that the zero-g toilet on the space shuttle contains a "rotary mechanical separator" to separate the solids from the liquids. It has been remarked that, in this design, the shit is SUPPOSED to hit the fan.

Cub Mistress
01-04-2012, 05:54 PM
with all due rspect to TVTropes, I grew up calling contrived stories that ended in a bad pun a shaggy dog story.and apparently so did the people in this thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=326377&highlight=shaggy+story&page=2)

Exapno Mapcase
01-04-2012, 06:00 PM
with all due rspect to TVTropes, I grew up calling contrived stories that ended in a bad pun a shaggy dog story.and apparently so did the people in this thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=326377&highlight=shaggy+story&page=2)

The OP of that thread said:
I've made kind of a hobby of learning shaggy dog stories with puns fro endings. I'm trying to "Collect them all". I'll try to list the ones I know, and if any of y'all brilliant, cultured people can add to the list please do so.

Also, since shaggy dog stories are long, and the set-up varies, I'll list them by punch line:
If he or she has to make an issue of a pun ending, then all shaggy dog stories don't end that way. But they are all long. I think you need a better cite.

Of course, if everybody uses shaggy dog story in that way, then it will come to take on that meaning. That's the way language works. But I don't think the transition has happened yet.

The Great Sun Jester
01-04-2012, 06:21 PM
However, the expression is when the shit HITS the fan, not when the shit is thrown at the fan. If you waiting for the shit to hit the fan, then that suggests that other shit has been thrown at the fan, but so far it has kept missing.Not to put too fine a point on it, but there is a period of suspense between the time when the shit is directed toward the fan and impact. This mental stress during this period, in which you can do nothing but duck, is arguably as bad as the fallout.

There is: "The shit's gonna hit the fan when mom finds out what you done!"
And then there is: "The shit really hit the fan when mom got home last night."

Both tenses of the metaphor have markedly different uses.

The Second Stone
01-04-2012, 07:09 PM
HAH, I'm remembering the 'shit's-gonna-hit-the-fan' scene in Airplane. Took me about and hour to recover from that one ;)

The high humor point of a hilarious low brow movie. That and "I'll check the radar range."

samclem
01-04-2012, 08:38 PM
U.S. Military, origins in WWII.


a. orig. U.S. Mil. (when) the shit hits the fan : (when) a situation suddenly becomes critical; (when) trouble suddenly or rapidly breaks out.a1943 in W. D. Jones Gyrene (1998) xix. 238 Having been there when the shit hit the fan.
1948 N. Mailer Naked & Dead iii. vii. 573 These riffraff in the platoon had an expression, ‘to keep a tight ass-hole’. What did they know of it?‥ ‘When the shit hits the fan that's when you keep a‥.’
1955 N. Mailer Let. 25 Aug. in N.Y. Rev. Bks. (1999) 26 Feb. 22/3 Whenever a publisher wants you to take out something, it always ends up being the most important thing in the book. So I told him no, and the son of a bitch broke his contract, and of course the shit had hit the fan.

Senegoid
01-04-2012, 10:53 PM
Shaggy dog stories and Feghoots are entirely separate classes of jokes. The classic shaggy dog story is very long and often arrives at an anticlimactic conclusion, the point being to frustrate the listener after the interminable build-up leads one to expect a gigantic ringing note of an ending. Feghoots are always very short and always lead to a specific example of a sentence-long pun.

Your cite has it totally wrong. TVTropes (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ShaggyDogStory) has it correct. You'll have to believe me when I say that I wrote my post first before linking there, but our definitions are essentially identical.

Well, okay, not a biggie thing to argue about (I think). But your classification doesn't seem to include the very long (like shaggy dog) story with the sentence-long pun combination, which is what I considered to be a "shaggy dog" story. Whatever my cite might have wrong about the terminology, it's still a good compendium of them.

ETA: Here is a version of the story that I thought gives "Shaggy dog" stories the name -- In some tellings, the dog is actually a shaggy dog, like a sheep-dog maybe. http://www.ahajokes.com/pun38.html