pratfall

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DEFINITION

noun
1. a fall on the buttocks;
2. a humiliating mishap or blunder.

EXAMPLES
1. “I didn’t really fall! I was doing a silly pratfall, and the press said I actually fell over, but I didn’t. Just one of my clowning things.” — From an interview with Emma Thompson in Newsday, December 11, 2013
2. “For the last two months, our healthcare.gov guinea pig Alice has had one frustrating moment after another. She visited the site repeatedly since its series of rolling pratfalls started Oct. 1. It never worked.” — From an op-ed by John Dickerson in the Columbia Daily Tribune (Columbia, Missouri), December 8, 2013.

DID YOU KNOW?
The human posterior has been given a number of designations over the centuries, some not acceptable in polite company. “Prat,” a slang term with only slightly indecorous overtones, has been used in reference to the backside since the 16th century. It wasn’t until the 1930s, however, that falling on one’s prat gave rise to the term “pratfall.” The word first cropped up in the lingo of comedy theater, where a pratfall is often part of a slapstick routine. It wasn’t long before we gave the word its extended sense of “blunder.” Now, with “prat” rarely used as a synonym of “derriere” anymore, “pratfall” is as apt to suggest getting a pie in the face as landing on one’s behind.

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