fall over backwards

Hole

Senior Member
Croatia - Croatian
I know this means to try hard to please someone (to suck up? :)), but I was wondering if it can be translated literally, meaning to literally fall. Here is the sentence I've got: "I’m amazed some of you don’t fall over backwards with your expensive cameras." (a man who hates journalists says that when they ask him questions trying to take his picture). It seems to me that he's talking about them losing balance and falling, but I'm not sure. He was probably being ironic or something.
 
  • frenchyfries

    Member
    English
    No, I don't believe that there is a literal translation for it. Usually when the verb fall is used it's more a mental or figurative intention.
    Eg. "to fall head over heels" is to be in love
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I think it is a comment about how they literally should fall over because of the heavy equipment and multiple cameras they carry; one can easily read some degree of enmity in that context. It's hyperbole of course, but the image evoked is "literal."
     

    frenchyfries

    Member
    English
    No, I don't believe that there is a literal translation for it. Usually when the verb fall is used it's more a mental or figurative intention.
    Eg. "to fall head over heels" is to be in love
    :tick:

    Also, "to fall backwards to your mate" means to try so hard to achieve something or to please someone
     

    frenchyfries

    Member
    English
    Perhaps the author intended to say that the cameras used were overly equipped with unecessary devices;thus, making the cameramen fall over
     

    Moglet

    Senior Member
    UK
    British/Hiberno-English
    I think it is a comment about how they literally should fall over because of the heavy equipment and multiple cameras they carry; one can easily read some degree of enmity in that context.
    For the context given, I'd agree 100% with that, Bibliolept!
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    If I tell someone that his ears are so big that he needs to turn his head to walk through a doorway, it's an exaggeration. But I am literally talking about the large size of his ears.

    In the same manner, this is literally trying to evoke the image that these people carry so much equipment that he wonders how they can stand at all.
     

    Moglet

    Senior Member
    UK
    British/Hiberno-English
    In this context, I would tend to say 'yes.' The person making the comment is irritated with the photographers. It sounds like someone being pestered by the paparazzi.

    If you picture one of the photographers with cameras and bags slung over his shoulders, and with some of the equipment tucked behind his back to keep it out of the way, it's easy to envision the weight of all that equipment pulling the photographer backwards; and if he has a really excessive amount of equipment, it's easy then to extrapolate that impression to the point where the weight of his gear could actually knock him off balance, so that he might indeed 'fall over backwards.'
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Does "fall over backwards" mean working hard to please someone? I've only heard "bend over backwards." If I heard "fall over backwards" I would assume they meant it literally (or figuratively as bibliolept explained it.)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Does "fall over backwards" mean working hard to please someone? I've only heard "bend over backwards." If I heard "fall over backwards" I would assume they meant it literally (or figuratively as bibliolept explained it.)
    Thank you James!!

    I've been staring at this thread since January wondering what's odd about it. You've hit the nail on the head.

    I'd hear fall over backwards as literal because it has no idiomatic resonances for me.
    Bend over backwards is completely different.
     

    Hole

    Senior Member
    Croatia - Croatian
    Does "fall over backwards" mean working hard to please someone? I've only heard "bend over backwards." If I heard "fall over backwards" I would assume they meant it literally (or figuratively as bibliolept explained it.)
    Yes it does, at least according to the Dictionary of Idioms. Here is the definition:
    fall over backwards - try very hard to please someone; "She falls over backwards when she sees her mother-in-law"
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Yes it does, at least according to the Dictionary of Idioms. Here is the definition:
    fall over backwards - try very hard to please someone; "She falls over backwards when she sees her mother-in-law"
    I agree with James - I've never heard other than "bend over backwards" in this context. Mr. Google has 424,000 hits for "bend over backwards" and 63,200 for "bend over backward". He has 30,000 for "fall over backwards" and 609 for "fall over backward". I didn't bother filtering out the Yoga sites and those that talk about tipsy penguins.:D

    If "fall over backwards" means trying hard to please someone, I don't think it's at all common in AE.
     

    Hole

    Senior Member
    Croatia - Croatian
    I don't know. I have copied the definition and the example from the Dictionary of Idioms I found on the Internet. Maybe they're wrong. But I use that dictionary on a regular basis. Maybe I shouldn't :)
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I don't know. I have copied the definition and the example from the Dictionary of Idioms I found on the Internet. Maybe they're wrong. But I use that dictionary on a regular basis. Maybe I shouldn't :)
    I think it depends on where that website is published and by whom, Hole. This is a good one and it does not contain "fall over backwards". Who publishes the Dictionary of Idioms that you use?
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    That's the same! It does contain this phrase.
    This is what I find at that site:

    bend over backwards to try very hard. We want your business and will bend over backwards to keep it. Usage notes: usually used to describe efforts to help or please someone


    Related vocabulary: fall all over yourself (to do something)

    When I search for "fall over backwards", I'm advised that it's "not available in the idioms".
     
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