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Thread: It fell flat / became a pancake.

  1. #1
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    It fell flat / became a pancake.

    This is how the English say when some attempt (usually a joke, speech, campaign...) fails. In Finnish siitä tuli pannukakku (became a pancake) or se lässähti (fell flat; descriptive word). The latter can also be used to describe atmosphere.

    In Italian, I suppose, there's no reference to pancakes. They say that something è andato a monte (went to the mountains) or ~ in fumo (smoke).

    Does your language have links to flat things (or even mountains)? Thank you!

    Edit:
    In Russian, people seem to shout блин! if something goes wrong. Is this true?

    They say det blev bara pannkaka av alltihop in Swedish, too.
    Last edited by sakvaka; 5th April 2010 at 3:13 PM.

  2. #2
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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    Russian блин! /blin/ has nothing to do with the meaning of the word ("pancake").

    It is used as a euphemism because it happened to sound somewhat like блядь /bliad’/ “literally, “whore”, used as an interjection (like French "putain!").

    I can’t think of any word for ‘failure’ that would have the connection with “flat” in Russian.

    EDIT: usually we say провалиться /provalitsia/- to fall through, провалить /provalit'/-to make fall through.
    Last edited by rusita preciosa; 5th April 2010 at 3:44 PM.

  3. #3
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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    Interesting information, rusita!

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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    In French, it's "tomber à plat" (to fall flat), mostly used for jokes that don't work. I can't think of any other faillure-related phrase with flat or mountains (although there's quite a number of phrases for faillure).

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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    Dutch: "Het viel in het water." But that is more like a project, something one has planned.

    Nothing like "flat" (plat, vlak), but i wondered if the origin could not be human: to fall on one's face, on the "flat" ground, on one's face (there are lots of names for that):

    I also thought of . "Het zakte ineen als een kaartenhuisje [a house of cards]". Then it falls onto the ground, it collapsed. Could this be the one you are looking for ?

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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    Quote Originally Posted by ThomasK View Post
    Dutch: "Het viel in het water." But that is more like a project, something one has planned.

    Nothing like "flat" (plat, vlak), but i wondered if the origin could not be human: to fall on one's face, on the "flat" ground, on one's face (there are lots of names for that):

    I also thought of . "Het zakte ineen als een kaartenhuisje [a house of cards]". Then it falls onto the ground, it collapsed. Could this be the one you are looking for ?
    Thank you. We can also use that idiom (kaatui kuin korttitalo), but I don't think it often refers to failed jokes, speeches, atmosphere: usually to buildings, systems etc. What do you think?

    In Finnish (and Swedish) the origin is surely not human (inhuman! ); a cake can lässähtää in the oven.

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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    I agree, I had not noticed the context really. I cannot imagine saying something metaphorical about jokes turning wrong.

    They do have in common that things are blowing up, getting higher, or try to, but then fall to the ground. Even the cake: it wanted to be lofty, so to speak, but it fails. But still no idea of jokes 'falling' like this... If only talking about plans, then we could "het liep uit op een sisser"/ it ended up in a hissting sound, I now think, and that could refer to things having been blown up and then falling down, due to a leak creating a hissing sound... Could that be it ?
    Last edited by ThomasK; 7th April 2010 at 9:51 PM.

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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    Quote Originally Posted by ThomasK View Post
    ... we could "het liep uit op een sisser"/ it ended up in a hissting sound, I now think, and that could refer to things having been blown up and then falling down, due to a leak creating a hissing sound... Could that be it ?
    At least it sounds very promising. I'll remember that!

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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    I am afraid there are no interesting or similar idioms neither in Czech, German nor in Hungarian.
    [ɒkinɛk humorɒ vɒn, mindɛnˤtud, ɒkinɛk niŋʧ, mindɛnrɛ ke.pɛʃ]

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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    In Chinese, we say 一敗塗地 一败涂地 yí bài tú dì, which literally means people's insides are used to paint the ground after the failure..

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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    I juts thought one negative use of the word "flat" in Russian: плоская шутка /ploskaya shootka/(lit., flat joke) - stupid, not funny joke.

    It is a set expression, I can't think of any other use of "flat, pancake" etc... in the negative sense.

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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    In Turkish only "sıçmak" (to shit) comes to my mind.

    If after the failure the person tries to correct it, we say, "sıçtı, şimdi de sıvıyor" (he shat, and now he is daubing it).

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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    In Greek:
    «Έκανα μια τρύπα στο νερό» ['ekana mɲa 'tripa sto ne'ro] --> I made a hole in the water
    or
    «Τα σκάτωσα» [ta 'skatosa] --> I shat things up

    (The latter is slang, quasi-vulgar)
    Les Grecs sont étonnants dans l'adversité - François Pouqueville

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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    We know 'een slag (beat, strike) in het water', but then it is a vain attempt rather. I could only say that it had no pointe, no climax, and maybe that it 'went flat like a souffé'. But that would be about big projects that had been blown up out of proportion, but then... So, somehow I recognize a similar metaphor at the base, but used differently...

  15. #15
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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    Quote Originally Posted by ThomasK View Post
    We know 'een slag (beat, strike) in het water', but then it is a vain attempt rather. I could only say that it had no pointe, no climax, and maybe that it 'went flat like a souffé'. But that would be about big projects that had been blown up out of proportion, but then... So, somehow I recognize a similar metaphor at the base, but used differently...
    In Greek it's ambiguous. One can use it to express either total disaster, or a vain attempt; it depends on context.
    Les Grecs sont étonnants dans l'adversité - François Pouqueville

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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    The Tagalog version is one word " palpak".

  17. #17
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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    In English, I've often heard "It [A joke/etc] fell flat", but I've never heard "It [A joke/etc] became a pancake."
    It's the short words that get you.

  18. #18
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    Re: It fell flat / became a pancake.

    Quote Originally Posted by sound shift View Post
    In English, I've often heard "It [A joke/etc] fell flat", but I've never heard "It [A joke/etc] became a pancake."
    A failed joke is in Greek:


    «κρύο» ['kri.o] (neut.) --> cold
    and the person who makes it, gives his audience a «κρυάδα» [kri'aða] (fem.) --> cold shoulder;


    often when someone makes a bad joke, hears from his/her audience «μπρρρρ» [br:] with movement resembling quiver with cold
    Les Grecs sont étonnants dans l'adversité - François Pouqueville

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