I often wonder where / when certain phrases and movements originated.  So, starting today, I will be posting up a 5 part series of some of the more used (and interesting) ones of our time.  (reference: internet, various)


Breaking Balls: 

There is a way to castrate a calf, instead of cutting off the testicles you break them. To “bust your balls” is to turn them from a bull into a steer. Properly directed harassment can have a similar effect on humans. [Slang; first half of 1900s]


When the Shit Hits the Fan:

Messy and exciting consequences brought about by a previously secret situation becoming public.

Origin: This expression alludes to the unmissable effects of shit being thrown into an electric fan. It appears to have originated in the 1930s. I can’t say better than ‘appears’ as the earliest citation of it that I can find is in the 1967 edition of Eric Partridge’s A dictionary of slang and unconventional English:

“Wait till the major hears that! Then the shit’ll hit the fan!”

Partridge lists the phrase as Canadian, circa 1930, but as he gives no supporting evidence we have to go by the 1967 date, although it is undoubtedly earlier.

Other, more polite, forms of the phrase, involving eggs, pie, soup and ‘stuff’, can certainly be dated from the USA the 1940s. For example, Max Chennault’s Up Sun, 1945:

 “Sounds like the stuff was about to hit the fan.”

The Fresno Bee Republican, May 1948, reported on a psychiatrists’ convention, under the heading See How Brain Boys Also Run Wild:

“However, once that opening point was settled, the psychiatrists entered wholly in the business of the convention, which culminated, of course, in the selection of officers for the coming year. And that, as the saying goes, was when the soup hit the fan.”