Feces versus Fans – What’s the Origin ?

It certainly paints an amusing mental image, but just where, when and how did the expression “the s**t hits the fan” originate?

IIRC the punch line was something like:

“Then the fit hit the Shan” which translate into “then the s… hit the fan.”

Anbody have a better explanation?

I always assumed that the “power” of the image was enough to bring the phrase into use. As to where it was popularized, no clue - I always assumed it was used by the military, since they are always: a) plagued by bureaucratic fuck-ups; b) penalized by failure to adhere to the rules; and c) coming up with similar turns of phrase…

There are divers and several jokes that refer to the shit hitting the fan in the punchline, but only because the phrase had already become a commonplace bit of idiom.

Its origins are uncertain, but it is widely believed that it was inspired by the observation of mechanical fertilizer-spreaders. (The idea was originally more specific than “something really bad will happen” – more like “unpleasantness will be widely distributed.”)

The old rhyme “Little man, so Spic 'n Span – where were you when the shit hit the fan?” is a sardonic comment on the way unpleasantness is often distributed. (ie; the fella feeding the shit into the blades is at pains to be out of the path – it’s the people in his wake that end up beshitted.)

You have it reversed. The spoonerism comes from the standard line, not the other way around.

Roger Zelazny used your version as a punch line in one of his books, and it works only because everybody knows the original.