Origin of the phrase “the shit has hit the fan”

I’ve wondered about this for sometime. Does anyone know how we wound up with the expression “the shit has hit the fan?”

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.

according to Phrase Finder.

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 to ~1930.

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?]

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.

The link Squink just posted mentions the joke I believe started the whole thing.

[sup]**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?”**[/sup]

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.

HAH, I’m remembering the ‘shit’s-gonna-hit-the-fan’ scene in Airplane. Took me about and hour to recover from that one :wink:

…about an hour…

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?

: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:

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.

That which hits the fan is seldom evenly distributed.
I forget who wrote that; twasn’t I.

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.

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 is applied to the genre.

That was in 1967.

Some of us remember 1967. Some of us also have The Compleat Feghoot.

You’re a dollar late and a day short.

The hippopotamus was doing it millions of years before the expression, by defecating into its spinning tail.

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

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.

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.