Alternative to "The Shit Hits The Fan"
July 26, 2012 11:50 AM   Subscribe

What's an alternative to the phrase "when the shit hits the fan" that means essentially the same thing, e.g. "when stuff goes wrong"? Feel free to be creative.
posted by rzperllian to Writing & Language (82 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
When things go pear-shaped.
posted by yoink at 11:51 AM on July 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


The other shoe drops
posted by ian1977 at 11:51 AM on July 26, 2012


In polite conversation, I often just use "when things hit the fan".
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:52 AM on July 26, 2012


When things go a bit Pete Tong*.

*rhyming slang for "wrong" - Pete Tong was a UK club DJ famous in the 90s.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:52 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's all going nonlinear.
At home, things have gone all Lord of the Flies.
A crib from Patrick O'Brian, 'everything's gone a-hoo'.
A teacher from my old high school used to say 'it's hair, teeth and eyes all over the place."
posted by jquinby at 11:53 AM on July 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


When the fit hits the shan.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:54 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


"When the rubber meets the road" means "when things get real" or "when things get serious". That's a component of the shit hitting the fan, but it doesn't have the negative element.

Maybe "when the bottom drops out"?
posted by alms at 11:55 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Things go pear-shaped. Things explode. Things go all cattywumpus. Things go nonlinear.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:56 AM on July 26, 2012


When things go sideways.

And there's always good old FUBAR.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 11:56 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


When things go pear-shaped.
I'm fond of this one, but use with caution: some consider it a sexist reference to women's maturing figures. (I like to think it refers to soufflés.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 11:56 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've never heard "go pear-shaped". It might be old-fashioned or regional?

I would say "When it hits the fan".
posted by scose at 11:58 AM on July 26, 2012


Things fall apart.
posted by feral_goldfish at 11:58 AM on July 26, 2012


Something has "gone to seed".
posted by threeants at 11:59 AM on July 26, 2012


things go south..
posted by k5.user at 12:00 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"That's when the wheels fell off."
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:00 PM on July 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


Things go tits-up. Things go sideways.
posted by hattifattener at 12:02 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"That's when all hell broke loose."
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:05 PM on July 26, 2012


When the balloon goes up.

As an alternative to "tits-up," there's "toes-up."
posted by Etrigan at 12:05 PM on July 26, 2012


Thanks guys, keep it coming! Clarification: I'm not just looking to be more gentile or polite, I'm looking for a genuinely different way to get the idea across
posted by rzperllian at 12:06 PM on July 26, 2012


Everything's gone bananas. It's complete mayhem. Shenanigans, hilarity, and/or hijinks have ensued. The entity responsible is having a bad hair day.
posted by clavicle at 12:07 PM on July 26, 2012


And we're living in interesting times.
posted by clavicle at 12:08 PM on July 26, 2012


I've never heard "go pear-shaped". It might be old-fashioned or regional?

That's British. Along with Tit's up and Cocked up.

Run it into the ditch.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:09 PM on July 26, 2012


The other shoe drops
Not exactly shit hitting the fan, although it can overlap. The other shoe dropping implies that a previous event created a state of suspense that has now been resolved. This resolution is rarely particularly happy, since the prototype situation is an upstairs neighbor taking off their shoes before getting into bed and dropping them onto your poorly insulated ceiling, possibly waking you up after you'd just managed to drop off. If used to refer to the shit hitting the fan, it must at least implicitly refer to some warning which foreshadowed the shit/fan collision.
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:10 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


The other day my mother used the phrase "It goes from pudding to poop real quick." I think it is one of my favorite things she has ever said.
posted by gagoumot at 12:11 PM on July 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


off the rails

tits up

shitstorm
posted by j_curiouser at 12:12 PM on July 26, 2012


My favorite is Kurt Vonnegut's use of "When the excrement hit the air conditioning".
posted by jillithd at 12:14 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


up the creek without a paddle

when the midden hits the windmill
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:18 PM on July 26, 2012


Nautical metaphors: Three sheets to the wind usually refers to drunkenness, but it needn't. Rudderless. An enterprise can be taking on water, or spring a leak, and lose headway, perhaps run aground, capsize, and then go down with all hands. At some point in there the rats may flee the sinking ship while people rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.
posted by hattifattener at 12:20 PM on July 26, 2012


Any of the phrases from this passage would do:

"Here it is the middle of August and the coldest day of the year. It’s simply freezing; the dogs are sticking to the sidewalks...The whole world’s at sixes and sevens, and why the house hasn’t fallen down about our ears long ago is a miracle to me."

(That's Thornton Wilder being creative, but...)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:22 PM on July 26, 2012


It's still crass, but "Shit's going DOWN!" is my go-to variant on this.
posted by jabes at 12:23 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


'when the brown stuff hits the spinny thing'
posted by randomination at 12:24 PM on July 26, 2012


Never understood the "pear-shaped" one, because that's a rather pleasing shape, to me. Would help if I knew what shape it was before. Spherical? A cube?

The variant I like is "a wheel's come off" which is the standard expression for this in the Quiller novels.
posted by Rash at 12:25 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


When it all goes horribly wrong.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 12:27 PM on July 26, 2012


Gone to hell in a handbasket.
Meltdown
posted by bellastarr at 12:27 PM on July 26, 2012


My husband and I are fans of Chapelle Show, so when speaking to each other, we use:

"When keeping it real goes wrong"
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:32 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm fond of Bill Murray's putting it into the proper perspective for the mayor in Ghostbusters:

"Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, MASS HYSTERIA."


I often shorten this to "Dogs and cats living together!"
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:39 PM on July 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oh and also, a variation on a Britishism above: "It's a cockup."
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:40 PM on July 26, 2012


Shi's going down--is supposed to, at least in the toilet.
Interest that not a suggest here is as good as When The Shit Hits The Fan
posted by Postroad at 12:44 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bro. Hart, who was one of my high school teachers always said "When the poo poo hits the propeller." He also put people on his "feces roster" so he had all the bases covered, so to speak.
posted by tommasz at 12:46 PM on July 26, 2012


it's spinning 'round the bowl.
posted by ambient2 at 12:48 PM on July 26, 2012


Oooh Oooh my friend and I say "Total Nakatomi" because of Nakatomi Towers in Die Hard. You should start saying "Total Nakatomi."

TOTAL NAKATOMI!!
posted by ephemerista at 12:50 PM on July 26, 2012


Up shit creek.

Hit an iceberg.

I hear banjos.
posted by pappy at 12:51 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


To go up shit creek without a paddle.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:53 PM on July 26, 2012


Things went cockeyed.

X shat the bed.

X went nuclear.

X detonated.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:56 PM on July 26, 2012


Turning into a clusterfuck, or turning into a Charlie Foxtrot if you want to sound more Army.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:03 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a bicyclist, I use the phrase "Rubber-side up".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 1:30 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and "where the rubber meets the road" is more along the lines of "let's get down to brass tacks" -- to get to the point, in other words, to the crux of a conversation.
posted by rhombus at 1:36 PM on July 26, 2012


The kids in my neighborhood say "that's a total juicebox" if something is all screwed up. I've never heard that anywhere else, but it's kind of cute. I've started using it.
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:59 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"well, this is a fuckle" is one I'm partial to.
posted by MysticMCJ at 2:01 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know this isn't very helpful, but I find all of these a bit weak.

Indeed? How about "things are about to get as fucked up as a football bat", which is one of my perennial favorites.
posted by jquinby at 2:04 PM on July 26, 2012


When I was in London recently, the press described the security at Heathrow as an "omni mega-shambles," which I immediately put into high rotation.
posted by *s at 2:20 PM on July 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


SNAFU
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:21 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you want to sound musical, in West Side Story, Sondheim used "if the spit hits the fan".
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:27 PM on July 26, 2012


when the engine falls off the track - black sheep
(pick it up, pick it up)
posted by udon at 2:38 PM on July 26, 2012


Like shit through a goose. Not exact, but close to what you are looking for.
posted by annsunny at 2:39 PM on July 26, 2012


I think we got paint on the iceberg.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 2:44 PM on July 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


"... and that's when the wheels came off the wagon."
posted by workerant at 2:45 PM on July 26, 2012


That's when the cat hit the fan.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 2:47 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


this isn't the same meaning, but I use the phrase "in the weeds" for trying to deal with a chaotic situation, such as shit hitting the fan. . .
posted by abirdinthehand at 2:55 PM on July 26, 2012


A bit in The Maxx that has always stuck with me:
"Suddenly, everything changes!"

A young friend of mine, before he joined the Army, when he was talking about what he wanted to get into, joked about what his written reports might look like: "And then, shit got real."

And one that is probably not for frequent use, but that I always found had a nice dry, detached quality to it:
"...A crisis is a situation in which a previously tolerable set of circumstances is suddenly, by the addition of another factor, rendered wholly intolerable."
Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain
posted by Mister Moofoo at 3:10 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gone pear shaped to me suggests a serious meltdown.

From the frying pan into the fire.
When the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.
This is a real goat rope.
Beyond all buggery.
Open up a jar of dills.
Certainly a pretty state of affairs.
Screwed, blued and totally tattooed.
The handle just came off the wagon.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:29 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Here it is the middle of August and the coldest day of the year. It’s simply freezing; the dogs are sticking to the sidewalks...The whole world’s at sixes and sevens, and why the house hasn’t fallen down about our ears long ago is a miracle to me."

(That's Thornton Wilder being creative, but...)


"At sixes and sevens" is a thing that people who aren't Thornton Wilder say too.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:52 PM on July 26, 2012


when push comes to shove (more of a connotation of escalation)
posted by plinth at 4:54 PM on July 26, 2012


I used to do some theatre electrician work. There was a show that had a ridiculously complicated hang & mad circuiting--cables everywhere in tangled configurations. Never was the term "cluckerfuck" more apt. "Facocked" works as well. I'm also fond of describing especially fucked up situations as "Good Times."
posted by smirkette at 5:02 PM on July 26, 2012


Genital-level commitment.

Referring to once you've walked into the ocean balls-deep, you might as well plunge in because the worst is over.
posted by dobbs at 5:08 PM on July 26, 2012


To capture the sense of some previous misdeeds or unfavorable circumstances coming to their natural bad end: the chickens have come home to roost.
posted by lakeroon at 5:45 PM on July 26, 2012


Everything went widdershins
posted by Violet Hour at 6:23 PM on July 26, 2012


[Something] "has not fulfilled its promise."

"We're flying blind into a mountain!"
posted by exphysicist345 at 6:29 PM on July 26, 2012


"Facocked"

Oh, I forgot about that! Yeah, that's an Anglicization of farkakt (or farkakte) a very handy Yiddish word that I used to use all the time in my teens, when I wanted to sound more like Harlan Ellison.

God help me.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 7:33 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


FUBAR (fucked up beyond all recognition)
And my personal favorite and variant - "Going to hell on a hand basket with the Devil tooting a horn" (I have no idea where it comes from except maybe Bosch or Bruegel).
posted by fiercekitten at 8:21 PM on July 26, 2012


Just read Jurassic Park again so I'll add: "When the velociraptors get out of the pen."
Also, "When you have a broken ankle and the scavengers move in."
Also, "When you let one IT control your security system and he decides to leave the company in a crisis."

Just watched Aliens last week so: "When you preset the bomb but decide to go back for your cat."
posted by DisreputableDog at 9:04 PM on July 26, 2012


In New Zealand vernacular things frequently turn to custard.
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 9:19 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's in paws-up mode.
posted by Runes at 9:26 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a British person, I've always assumed "pear-shaped" meant "starting from round" and was purely geometric. And I use it all the time for this. But I also love minimalist art, so perhaps that's showing. It blows my mind that someone would interpret the phrase as sexist (and makes me sad).

But, to answer the question, I also think this is the perfect opportunity to make random things up that don't make sense -- along the lines of "he's not the sharpest tool in the shed" becoming "he's not the brightest bulb in the shed," mixing metaphors. So, I don't know, the fan went paws-up? Along similar lines, I say things like, "And then the truck hit the trailer," or anything that sounds alliterative and plausible for half a second, but then makes people stop and go, "er, what now?"
posted by obliquicity at 9:38 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


In deep yoghurt.
posted by blob at 10:06 PM on July 26, 2012


When the train comes off the rails.
posted by JujuB at 10:38 PM on July 26, 2012


Time to get the fuck outta Dodge.
posted by bardic at 12:39 AM on July 27, 2012


Fugazi.
posted by bardic at 12:41 AM on July 27, 2012


You've been rode hard and put away wet.
posted by bardic at 12:42 AM on July 27, 2012


I like 'things have gotten a bit squidgy," as in they've gotten a bit mushy and messed up. Not sure where I picked that up, but I just like saying squidgy. Squidgy.
posted by ElleElle at 7:14 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


One my boyfriend & I sometimes use (ripping off The Real World) is "Things just stopped being polite and started getting real!"
posted by jabes at 7:31 AM on July 27, 2012


[It's going / went] down the tubes!
This dates from way before the internets were called "tubes."
posted by exphysicist345 at 7:01 PM on August 1, 2012


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