ass over tea kettle

Hello Everyone,

When a person takes a hard fall I’ve heard others describe it as falling ass over tea kettle. What does a tea kettle have to do with it?

It’s a variant of “head over heels.” “Teakettle” is just being used as a colorful analogy for head.

Here’s a discussion of the history of the phraseand variants, such as “tail over teakettle.”

It may derive from the Britishism “Arse over tip.” (One’s tip is one’s top – head.)

The term is ‘arse over tit’ (teakettle being a partial bowdlerism, I guess)

I always just took the phrase to conjure up the image of a person walking with a teakettle in hand (perhaps to serve tea to a table), then tripping and taking a spill in which their posterior ends up in a higher position than the teakettle. Maybe I’m too much of a literalist.

My mother always said “Arse over elbow”. It didn’t really make sense to me. Later on I heard it as “Arse over bollocks,” which makes more sense. Why “Arse” was acceptable but “bollocks” not, I have no idea.

May be regional differences; I’ve heard (and seen) tip, but had never (until your post) seen tit.

I’ve also seen the cleaner version, “Base over tip.” (I got that one from a Carl Giles cartoon.)

Interesting. Google NGrams appears to show an earlier/larger start for ‘arse over tip’, with ‘arse over tit’ coming in later and still not quite catching up.

I did not expect that.