I am reading a novel in which the author uses the phrase ‘pear-shaped’ to indicate somethiing negative. As in: ‘If it all goes pear-shaped in a year or so…’
Does anyone know the origin of this phrase? TIA

I’ve only heard it used to describe some one’s figure, when the hips/butt/lower tummy are disproportionately large.

Is the sentence in reference to a person? Like “the liposuction looks great now, but if it all goes pear-shaped in a year or so, she’ll be out a lot of money” ?

The origin for this use of the term is in dispute. The OED cites its origin as within the Royal Air Force; as of 2003 the earliest citation there is a quote in the 1983 book Air War South Atlantic (ISBN 0-283-99035-X). Others date it to the RAF in the 1940s, from pilots attempting to perform aerial manoeuvres such as loops. These are difficult to form perfectly, and are usually noticeably distorted—i.e., pear-shaped.

Never mind.

Never mind. Fancy google-fu, Blake

I’ve heard “pear-shaped” in the OP’s sense very often, but I believe all my references are either UK English speakers or people who have been influenced by UK English speakers.

I have head it very often also, but all my references are Murray Walker.

Mine are all Terry Pratchett. He’s fond of the phrase.

When the phrase became popular (and to my mind, over-used) in recent times, I was convinced it was from The Hitchhiker’s Guide, which would pre-date the cite from 1983 mentioned above. But it is just a long-term hunch.

Doesn’t he describe things as more wahoonie-shaped?

I had never head it before I started hanging out with Brits. One of my British friends will say “If it all goes the shape of the pear.” He was surprised that us Yanks had never hear the expression. He kept trying different ways of saying it: “You know, pear shaped. The shape of the pear.” We all stared blankly at him.

Now I know what it means, but I still don’t use it.

The comparison’s intent when I’ve heard it before was much more complimentary, a pear-shaped ass being more constricted at the top but “bottoming out” rather nicely.

Also though, I do remember previous discussion on this board wrt the term being something different entirely in UK circles, somewhat akin to ‘going awry.’

According to the English to American Dictionary:

He also says:

I’m sure that’s what we’re talking about here - not things literally assuming a pear-like shape, but an idiom referring to things turning out suboptimally.

I’m thinking junk in the trunk.

I think Blake’s link summed it up pretty well. It WAS a britiah novel I was reading (A Spot of Bother), and it did not refer in any way to the shape of a person, but to a plan.

The way I’ve had it explained to me is that we’re to suppose whatever is now pear-shaped had originally been round. Since it’s now in the shape of a pear, rather than a circle, it’s fouled up and doesn’t roll smoothly. Isn’t there a similar expression about how things have gone “out of round”? Maybe that’s used in cases more literal, though.

It was the name of a Dick Tracy villain in the 1940s, so it goes back at least that far.

What about the phrase, ‘pear shaped tones’, to mean speaking loud or insistently?

I have often heard it used by non Brits.

“Pear shaped” is when things have gone a bit Pete Tong. I trust that clears things up.