Pear-shaped and Turn to custard


Do you need some more expressions to describe failure? I guess there’s always room for another one or two especially if they take the sting out of the experience. Here are two that I rather like, especially the second which comes from my beloved New Zealand.


Pear-shaped seems to be regarded as British in origin although I recently heard it used by a North American. Basically it means to go wrong. The idea seems to be that you want a perfect circle and instead of drawing that because you are not so good, you end up drawing a pear.

The latest expedition by explorers to walk to the North Pole has gone pear-shaped with the loss of two support sleds and the breaking up of the usually reliable pack ice.


Turn to custard tends to be used when the plans and preparation amount to nothing because of circumstances beyond our control.


We thought we might take a picnic to the beach but that idea turned to custard when it started to pour down.

The city council had intended putting a much needed bypass through Silverton. With the public protests, the difficulty of getting resource consents and the budget deficit that has all turned to custard.

The All Blacks were advancing well towards a try when they fumbled the ball, lost possession and their manouevre turned to custard.

Oddly enough, some people object to these expressions. Some say that pear-shaped is positive, like the shape of a woman’s body especially those Renaissance nudes.

On internet I read someone commenting that she makes great custard and why should it get such a bad reputation?  I imagine that as custard is somewhat runny, it describes perfectly when your solid plans become uncontrollably fluid.