to take the fall

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Agnès E.

Senior Member
France, French
Bonjour ! :)

Could you please explain me what this sentence means:

He took the fall for the bank robbery.

I'm hesitating between two interpretations:
- he got arrested by the police
- he was sentenced a long stay in jail by the judge

Or, third possibility, I'm totally off the track and this means something totally different... :(

(I'm sorry, there is no context.)
 
  • sloopjc

    Senior Member
    UK English
    It's the same as shouldering the burden or taking the wrap for the bank robbery. It suggests that there were others involved, but only he was caught. Consequently, all charges were venomously pressed against him.
     

    Agnès E.

    Senior Member
    France, French
    Thank you sloopjc. So, my guess was right: I was on the wrong track!
    I assume that this is some kind of slang, isn't it? I have been unable to find it in dictionaries, even Urbandictionary. :(
     

    Catty

    Member
    Australia - English
    Actually, I disagree with that explanation. It doesn't necessarily mean he was the only one who was caught. I've always thought that 'to take the fall' for something meant that you voluntarily take the blame for something that other people are also involved in (ie. to prevent others from being punished, even if you weren't the one responsible).
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    Thank you sloopjc. So, my guess was right: I was on the wrong track!
    I assume that this is some kind of slang, isn't it? I have been unable to find it in dictionaries, even Urbandictionary. :(
    Have a second look. ;) Another one here (scroll down the page). It dates from 1920s and comes from the underworld cant. I think you can also use take the hit in the same way.
     

    sloopjc

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Actually, I disagree with that explanation. It doesn't necessarily mean he was the only one who was caught. I've always thought that 'to take the fall' for something meant that you voluntarily take the blame for something that other people are also involved in (ie. to prevent others from being punished, even if they were the ones responsible).
    take the fall - to accept responsibility for something

    It's not a case of volunteering to take responsibility. If you take the fall, you shoulder the burden, take the rap etc. because you are the one responsible. It's not a prerogative for an individual if nobody else can be held accountable.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    It's the same as shouldering the burden or taking the wrap for the bank robbery. It suggests that there were others involved, but only he was caught. Consequently, all charges were venomously pressed against him.
    This is wrong.
    Taking the wrap is misspelled.

    There is no mention of the involvement of others in the text in question, though one may assume that someone did it. There is no suggestion that the person taking the fall was even involved.
    There is no suggestion of charges, pressed venomously or otherwise.

    To take the fall is to take the blame for something another has done. It's simple. Complicated fictional speculation is not required to define it.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    take the fall - to accept responsibility for something

    It's not a case of volunteering to take responsibility. If you take the fall, you shoulder the burden, take the rap etc. because you are the one responsible. It's not a prerogative for an individual if nobody else can be held accountable.
    Error piled on more error!

    The one who takes the fall is the one who is blamed. The one who is blamed, in that phrase, is
    not the one responsible. It is the one who is held to be responsible for the actions of another.

    responsible (BLAME)
    adjective
    be responsible for sth/doing sth to be the person who caused something to happen, especially something bad:
    Cambridge Advanced Learners
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    If 'He took the fall for the bank robbery' this means, very simply, that he was blamed for it, and did not commit the robbery. He may have been "Thrown under the bus" (blamed, fingered) by one or more of those who did commit the robbery, or he may have been an innocent bystander. We do not know any of this from the sample sentence. Other things we do not know are whether he was formally charged or convicted or sentenced.

    The "He" in the sentence may have been 'hung out to dry' by fellow robbers, or not. We do not know.
    He may have "been the patsy", or "been taking the heat" for the crime, at the behest of someone else. We do not know.

    We do know that he was blamed, and was held to be responsible for something for which he was not responsible.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    No. The one who takes the fall is the one who is blamed, but more correctly he is the one who accepts the responsibility.
    Repeating a falsehood in bold type does not make it correct. The blame is assigned to the one who takes the fall, not accepted by that person.

    You had trouble with the Cambridge definition, so try Oxford:

    re•spon•si•bil•ity noun (pl. -ies)
    1 [U, C] ~ (for sth / for doing sth)| ~ (to do sth) a duty to deal with or take care of sb/sth, so that you may be blamed if sth goes wrong: We are recruiting a sales manager with responsibility for the European market.
    A person who takes the fall may have had no duty or prior agreement, or even any involvement in the robbery.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    The reason for owning a fice*
    Though his habits are clearly not nice
    Is that he'll take the fall
    If you pass gas at all.
    A bargain at double the price.




    Whether you or your cur take the fall when you pass gas has nothing at all to do with accepting responsibility.







    *FICE An obsolete English word still used in Kentucky and the South for a small dog or cur, sometimes spelt 'phyce'. It is evidently the last small remnant of the old English "foisting cur". The foisting dog was a kind of lap-dog, so called from its bad habits, which often have to serve as an excuse for the wind of the owner. Hence "feisty". (Source:www.phrases.org.uk/)
     

    sloopjc

    Senior Member
    UK English

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    Could it be that it depends upon the context whether the one takes on the responsibility or not when is reported to have taken the fall?


    Tom
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Idiom(s):
    take the fall/hit Slang
    To incur blame or censure, either willingly or unwillingly

    Random House Unabridged

    Taking blame is not the same thing as taking responsibility.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    He took the fall for the bank robbery.
    - he got arrested by the police
    - he was sentenced a long stay in jail by the judge

    Or, third possibility, ...

    Before the lap dog farts too many more times, let's look again at the original thread question.

    He took the fall...=He was blamed for the bank robbery.

    - he got arrested by the police Nothing in the sentence tells us whether he got arrested or not.
    Therefore, we don't know whether he was tried, convicted or sentenced to a long or short stay in jail.
    - he was sentenced a long stay in jail by the judge

    We only know, from the sentence in question, that he was blamed for the robbery.

    All else is speculation.


    Speculative possibilities, available from our respective fertile imaginations, but not from a close reading of the text presented,
    may include--

    He was blamed, hunted down, grilled/interrogated, and confessed, taking full responsibility for the robbery.
    He was blamed/accused, but the police never found him.
    He was blamed for the crime, hired a dandy high-priced lawyer, was charged, tried, acquited, freed from custody, and sued the local police force for false arrest. He now lives in the Bahamas in great luxury, and raises fice.
     

    sloopjc

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Before the lap dog farts too many more times, let's look again at the original thread question. He took the fall...=He was blamed for the bank robbery.
    The lap dog took the fall, but we all know "who farted". That is to say, we know on this basis who was really responsible. It was not the accused, i.e. the poor lap dog. It was his owner.

    This conflicts with the definition given here: http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/take+the+fall

    This source would decree that cuchuflete's lap dog has the brains to know that blame was being apportioned, and that he was OK with accepting the responsibility, on the grounds that it is the lap dog's duty to cover up for vulgar behaviour of his immature superior.
     

    Agnès E.

    Senior Member
    France, French
    Thank you all! As usual, I've learnt much reading your comments.
    So, if I follow this post:
    To take the fall (for someone/something) is to accept responsibility for something. The team's general manager takes the fall when the team loses but gets a lot of credit when they do well.- Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms
    See also fall-guy.
    can I consider that being scapegoated should be a good equivalent? This phrase implies supposed guilt, blame put on someone whether he agrees or not to take it, and blame put on one person/group/entity chosen as sole responsible.
    Do you agree on this interpretation? :)
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Scapegoat is an excellent choice, Agnès.

    scape·goat –noun
    —a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place.
    verb
    —to make a scapegoat of: Strike leaders tried to scapegoat foreign competitors.
    Random House Unabridged
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Before the lap dog farts too many more times, let's look again at the original thread question.

    He took the fall...=He was blamed for the bank robbery.

    - he got arrested by the police Nothing in the sentence tells us whether he got arrested or not.
    Therefore, we don't know whether he was tried, convicted or sentenced to a long or short stay in jail.
    - he was sentenced a long stay in jail by the judge

    We only know, from the sentence in question, that he was blamed for the robbery.

    All else is speculation.


    Speculative possibilities, available from our respective fertile imaginations, but not from a close reading of the text presented,
    may include--

    He was blamed, hunted down, grilled/interrogated, and confessed, taking full responsibility for the robbery.
    He was blamed/accused, but the police never found him.
    He was blamed for the crime, hired a dandy high-priced lawyer, was charged, tried, acquited, freed from custody, and sued the local police force for false arrest. He now lives in the Bahamas in great luxury, and raises fice.
    I'd have to disagree with that, Cuchuflete. "Took the fall" does mean that some consequence occurred. It's more than "was blamed for". It means that the person somehow took the consequences for the action, either willingly or unwillingly. A person who "took the fall" for the bank robbery, in my opinion, could not be blamed but never found by the police. That wouldn't be taking any kind of fall at all. A person who skips off to Argentina with the company funds is blamed for the bankruptcy of the company but doesn't take the fall for the bankruptcy. He avoids taking the fall.

    Note this passage from Dashiell Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon" found here:

    As the night wore on, Spade suggested that Gutman turn over the punk hired-gun to the cops: "Somebody had to take the fall for those murders." Gutman hesitated at first, but Spade warned he would not turn over the falcon unless they could produce a "fall guy." Gutman finally consented to make his sidekick the scapegoat, and before the lightweight could retaliate, Sam disarmed him and knocked him cold.

    A "fall guy" is the one who "takes the fall" for something, and it means that he suffers the consequences, not just that he is blamed for it.

    From a description of an episode of "King Of The Hill" (one of my favorite animated series) found here, we see this use of "take the fall":

    Fearing hotel expulsion, Bill decides to take the fall for Hank and meet with the governor. Instead of a reprimand, Bill gets a date and love blossoms between him and Ann.

    Here, taking the fall is voluntary. It's more than taking the blame; it's taking on the consequences. In this case, the governor doesn't dole out any consequences, but Bill doesn't know this when he goes to meet with the governor.

    I say that someone can accept the blame, or be blamed, for something without taking the fall for something. To me, a scapegoat and a "fall guy" are the same thing; they both take the blame and the consequences for something.
     

    sloopjc

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Agnès E.

    He took the fall
    = He was made a scapegoat :cross:

    Not if you agree with winklepicker's source:
    http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/take+the+fall

    "The team's general manager takes the fall when the team loses but gets a lot of credit when they do well"

    "The team's general manager becomes the scapegoat when the team loses but gets a lot of credit when they do well.":cross:

    It implies a completely different idea. In the first example, no blame is directly apportioned, but the manager knows it is his responsibility to take any flack headed his way, for his team losing. In the second example, the team may well decide to scapegoat the manager, if he puts his hands up and says: - "It's not my fault guys, you're the players!".

    Do you see the difference? In this comparison, managers who become scapegoats are really only managers who are responsible enough to take the fall, before they are blamed.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    I'd have to disagree with that, Cuchuflete. "Took the fall" does mean that some consequence occurred. It's more than "was blamed for". It means that the person somehow took the consequences for the action, either willingly or unwillingly. A person who "took the fall" for the bank robbery, in my opinion, could not be blamed but never found by the police. That wouldn't be taking any kind of fall at all. A person who skips off to Argentina with the company funds is blamed for the bankruptcy of the company but doesn't take the fall for the bankruptcy. He avoids taking the fall.

    ...

    I say that someone can accept the blame, or be blamed, for something without taking the fall for something. To me, a scapegoat and a "fall guy" are the same thing; they both take the blame and the consequences :tick: for something.
    Good point James. I fully agree that taking the fall or being scapegoated implies consequences, as well as apportionment of blame.

    Then we could get cute, and try to decide whether having to flee from the police because of a false accusation constitutes a consequence, and is thus consistent with 'taking the fall'. I'd rather leave that sort of discussion to more arcane philologists, and just generally agree with your statement. :)
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Agnès E.

    He took the fall = He was made a scapegoat :cross:

    Not if you agree with winklepicker's source:
    http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/take+the+fall

    "The team's general manager takes the fall when the team loses but gets a lot of credit when they do well"
    "The team's general manager becomes the scapegoat when the team loses but gets a lot of credit when they do well.":cross:

    It implies a completely different idea. In the first example, no blame is directly apportioned, but the manager knows it is his responsibility to take any flack headed his way, for his team losing. In the second example, the team may well decide to scapegoat the manager, if he puts his hands up and says: - "It's not my fault guys, you're the players!".

    Do you see the difference? In this comparison, managers who become scapegoats are really only managers who are responsible enough to take the fall, before they are blamed.
    To me, the sentence should be "The team's general manager takes the blame when the team loses but gets a lot of credit when they do well." Blame/credit are opposites. If the general manager takes the fall for the team losing, it means that he is fired for them losing, or he resigns because they are losing.

    For example, this article entitled "Fall Guy" speaks of a Coach O'Brien who was fired for problems with his players:

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2005/writers/chris_mannix/05/23/obrien.sixers/index.html

    Or this article, discussing a V.P. at Sony who was fired over the spontaneously combusting laptop batteries, saying "Well the VP that took the fall for that fiasco has just been hired by Samsung as Executive VP of Sales and Marketing for Consumer Products":

    http://dcbalpm.wordpress.com/2006/12/

    Or this article about management practices, where it says:

    This subordinate was doing a less than spectacular job, but the manager felt sorry for her because she was 60 years old and needed the position. In the end, it was the manager who took the fall. She was let go for not managing deadwood in her department appropriately. Amazingly, the account supervisor was kept on.

    http://www.victoriajames.com/News/art-dm030102.html


    I think I understand what you're saying and I agree with what I think you're saying. :) A scapegoat is someone who is blamed for something that someone else did, and not everyone who "takes the fall" is taking it only because of someone else blaming them. A person can choose to "take the fall" for something. In other words, all scapegoats take the fall, but not everyone who takes the fall is a scapegoat. They may have chosen to take the fall of their own accord.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    To me, the sentence should be "The team's general manager takes the blame when the team loses but gets a lot of credit when they do well." Blame/credit are opposites. If the general manager takes the fall for the team losing, it means that he is fired for them losing, or he resigns because they are losing. :tick: As you wrote earlier, there are consequences associated with taking the fall, in addition to being blamed.


    I think I understand what you're saying and I agree with what I think you're saying. :) A scapegoat is someone who is blamed for something that someone else did, and not everyone who "takes the fall" is taking it only because of someone else blaming them. A person can choose to "take the fall" for something. In other words, all scapegoats take the fall, but not everyone who takes the fall is a scapegoat. They may have chosen to take the fall of their own accord.
    OK, let's see what we have in the last paragraph...

    1) Taking the fall may be
    —a-voluntary
    —c-involuntary
    Agreed.

    2) 'all scapegoats take the fall'
    Disagree some of the time, agree some of the time. Here's why--
    scape·goat –noun
    —a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place.
    verb
    —to make a scapegoat of: Strike leaders tried to scapegoat foreign competitors.

    In the sample sentence for the verb form, foreign competitors were blamed, but did not
    necessarily suffer any consequences. In the noun form definition, bearing the blame without suffering is a possibility.

    Taking the fall, as you clearly explained, does imply suffering consequences. Being scapegoated may or may not.
     

    sloopjc

    Senior Member
    UK English
    quote:
    "To me, the sentence should be "The team's general manager takes the blame when the team loses but gets a lot of credit when they do well."

    If the general manager takes the fall for the team losing, it means that he is fired for them losing, or he resigns because they are losing."



    James, you can't redefine a published definition on the basis of the articles you are quoting.

    The article I found implies the finger of blame is being deflected. It seems that blame isn't enough to fire someone, but if you know that they know they're the ones responsible, then you would expect them to take the fall i.e. take the rap.

    http://66.102.9.104/search?q=cache:...html+"take+the+fall"&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=8&gl=es

    "The news this week that Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, the two senior AIPAC staffers who are in legal jeopardy as a result of the FBI investigation, aren't willing to take the fall is definitely not the outcome that AIPAC wanted."
     

    . 1

    Banned
    Australian Australia
    I tried to read this thread and I am very happy that I knew what a fallguy was before I started as my comprehension took a fall the further my eyes fell down the screen.
    The earlier posts confused me so I will not even try to comment I will just throw my hat in the ring.
    To take the fall requires nothing on the part of the person taking the fall.
    The person may take the fall with full prior knowledge or the person falling may be a total patsy and utterly unaware of the reasons for the fall.
    There must be some form of fall. The fall may be only blame or the fall may be 'the long step' of the origin of the phrase. To take the fall at the end of the thirteen loop noose.
    I think that it would be hard to imagine a better word than scapegoat to use as a translation. A fallguy is sometimes told what is going on (as additional punishment).

    .,,
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    ⇒To take the fall requires nothing on the part of the person taking the fall.

    The person may take the fall with full prior knowledge or the person falling may be a total patsy and utterly unaware of the reasons for the fall.

    There must be some form of fall.
    The fall may be only blame or the fall may be 'the long step' of the origin of the phrase.

    ➡I think that it would be hard to imagine a better word than scapegoat to use as a translation.

    .,,
    Superb summing up!
    Thanks.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    quote:


    James, you can't redefine a published definition on the basis of the articles you are quoting.
    I'm not redefining a published definition. I'm simply disputing its accuracy. :) The Free Dictionary has been inaccurate on many occasions, in my experience, and has conflicted with other "published" definitions, including those found in actual hardcopy books. I would not call "The Free Dictionary" a published source. In my experience, The Free Dictionary is sometimes worth exactly what I paid for it.

    Someone can take the blame without "taking the fall." If my son misbehaves, I can say to the school counselor, "I accept the blame for his poor behavior." I am certainly not going to "take the fall" as a result. What punishment will the school counselor inflict upon me as a consequence? Now, if my son steals something and I "take the fall", it means I say I stole it (or he sets it up to look like I stole it) and I get whatever consequences there are for the theft. That's "taking the fall."

    "Taking the fall" is more than just "taking the blame". They are not interchangeable. Taking the fall is taking the blame and its attendant consequences, willingly or unwillingly. In the case of a coach, a manager, a CEO, or a public official, it's most commonly used to indicate a serious consequence - usually being fired, resigning or facing criminal proceedings. I can find dozens, if not hundreds, of examples to demonstrate this usage.
     

    sloopjc

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Taking the fall is taking the blame and its attendant consequences, willingly or unwillingly.
    So you're saying that accepting the consequences unwillingly is not taking responsibility and that's where the definition falls down?
     

    Sweet_sin

    Member
    Mexico, Español
    Yeah! I agree with you!
    Sorry to get into your conversation, I had to look at it and say you are right!:thumbsup: Not that I'm a professional, but I agree.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    So you're saying that accepting the consequences unwillingly is not taking responsibility and that's where the definition falls down?
    I agree with what you said earlier about the lapdog. The lapdog takes the fall, but he has no cognizance of "responsibility." I think you were absolutely correct in pointing out that conflict between the definition and the actual use of the idiom.

    What I'm also disagreeing with in the definition is the use of "The coach takes the fall...." This is not a good example. The coach accepts responsibility for his team losing, ideally. That doesn't mean he "takes the fall." "The fall" is some sort of consequence for his team losing, usually as a result of a string of failures. He can take the fall independent of whether he accepts responsibility for their performance or not. If a coach "took the fall" for his team every time they lost, coaches would be bouncing from job to job on a weekly basis.

    I think the dictionary definition is inaccurate and the example it gives to demonstrate the use of "takes the fall" is also inaccurate.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    What I'm also disagreeing with in the definition is the use of "The coach takes the fall...." This is not a good example. The coach accepts responsibility for his team losing, ideally. That doesn't mean he "takes the fall." "The fall" is some sort of consequence for his team losing, usually as a result of a string of failures. He can take the fall independent of whether he accepts responsibility for their performance or not. If a coach "took the fall" for his team every time they lost, coaches would be bouncing from job to job on a weekly basis.

    I think the dictionary definition is inaccurate and the example it gives to demonstrate the use of "takes the fall" is also inaccurate.
    Amen to that.
     

    sloopjc

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I think the dictionary definition is inaccurate and the example it gives to demonstrate the use of "takes the fall" is also inaccurate.
    Well, in hindsight I agree. It dawns on me that the article I made reference to, is in contradiction to The Free Dictionary definition - which suggests that taking the fall is about responsibility - something which is not an option in the case of a team coach. :)
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    A helpful (I hope) aside...we have had a number of threads about monolingual dictionaries, both paper and on the web. Some of the better ones that are easily available online are, in no particular order,
    WR--top of every page in the forums. Select English Definition to get to the Princeton WordNet Dictionary
    Merriam-Webster online- you can see a link to it at the bottom of each WR dictionary page.
    Cambridge U.P. has a link to their Advanced Learners and other references.
    Oxford U.P. has a link to their Advanced Learners.
    Dictionary.com- Links to this are at the bottom of each WR English dictionary page
    The last one includes both the Random House Unabridged, the American Heritage Dict. and sundry other resources.

    If nothing else works, just make me the scapegoat. I'll be the patsy, and take the fall. Irresponsibly, of course.
     
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