AE 493 – Expression: Go Pear-Shaped

Learn Australian English in this expression episode of The Aussie English Podcast where I teach you to use to GO PEAR-SHAPED like a native speaker.

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AE 493 – Expression: Go Pear-Shaped

I was out the front mowing the nature strip and I could see a bit of attention on the other side of the bridge of people looking and taking photos, and I thought, wow, there’s something going on, so (I) went and had a squiz, and then once I saw what I saw, I thought, yeah, this is gutsy.

Honestly, it looked like someone (had) done damage to the bridge since the way it’s got the hole in it. I had no idea who’d done it. I thought, well, someone around here has got talent.

I probably should’ve got permission, but I thought, I’ll just go and have an experiment. It’s only chalk. It’s going to last a couple of days. If it rains, it’ll come straight off. I did it on the Friday, (I) thought, if it’s not washed off by the Sunday, I can go down with some water and hose it off.


Hey, you mob. How’s it going? Welcome to this episode of Aussie English, the number one podcast for anyone and everyone or wanting to learn Australian English.

Remember, guys, if you would like the transcript and the MP3s to this podcast, you can get access to all of them, unlimited access, when you go to, hit ‘sign up’, and for the price of one coffee every single month you will get access to the MP3s and the transcripts to download them and listen to them, consume them, do whatever you want with them, anytime, anywhere.

If you’re a more serious English-language learner and you would like to get more out of every single one of these expression episodes, then I thoroughly recommend enrolling in the Aussie English Classroom, and that is Head over there, sign up, it’s just one dollar for your first month at the moment, guys. So, give that a go. And you will get all the bonus content for these episodes, the videos that go through things like pronunciation, the expressions that are used in these episodes, the more advanced vocabulary, you’ll get speaking challenges, and you can take part in the community and meet other people. We recently had a whole group of people in Melbourne here who were in the Facebook group for the classroom, they all got together and were practising in whilst together in the CBD. Anyway, guys.

With that, let’s go through the movie scene there at the start. Now, I found this on Facebook this week and it blew me away. It blew my mind. It was mind-blowing. I loved it.

So, this was the story of how this mural was painted on a bridge wall in Warrnambool, which is in Victoria close to where I live. Well, three hours away, but relatively close, you know, in the grand scheme of things in Australia. And this guy painted this mural on the wall, another guy found it and saw it, and decided that he would prefer this mural to be permanent instead of just washing away next time it rained as the mural had been done in chalk, which is what the original artist’s plan was, for this to be just temporary.

Anyway, that video will be linked in the transcript. I really recommend going and checking it out. It was an amazing video full of humour, Australian humour, and it was from ABC News. Okay? So, these guys are an amazing resource if you want to practice your Australian English by watching the Australian news. I love ABC News. You can check them out on Facebook and they also have a live stream on YouTube that is 24 hours a day. Just type in ‘ABC News’ into YouTube and you will find that. Anywhere, guys.

That’s it for the intro. A quick apology too if I sound a little congested. I have just moved back to Melbourne or to Geelong, rather, which is about 70 kilometers south of Melbourne, and I’m living at my parents’ place and they have cats, and I’m allergic to cats. It always takes me a few weeks to get acclimated to them, to sort of… for my body to become used to them, and I have to take anti-histamines in the meantime, you know, and I feel like I to sneeze all the time. Anyway.

As usual, let’s get into an Australian joke, and I’ve got a killer for you today. (I) told this one to Kel and she was like, you need to include this in the episode. Alright, here’s the joke.

Why did kangaroos hate rainy days? Why did kangaroos hate rainy days? Because their children play inside.

What do you reckon? Is it a good one?

Why do kangaroos hate rainy days? Because their kids play inside. Get it? Because kangaroos have pouches. Anyway.

Today’s expression, guys. Today’s expression is for things ‘to go pear-shaped’, ‘to go pear-shaped’. This was from Alexander who suggested this in the Aussie English Classroom. We all voted on it. Good job, Alex.

So, let’s go through the definitions of the words in this expression ‘to go pear-shaped’.

So, ‘go’. ‘Go’ can mean a lot of different things. You know, usually, it is talking about moving in a direction, right. You’re going forward, you’re going backward, you’re going to a place. But here, if ‘go’ is followed by an adjective here like ‘pear-shaped’, it’s more than it means to turn into something. So, to pass into or to be in a specified state, especially, an undesirable state. Right? So, it’s sort of like to turn bad, to become bad, to go bad. So, you might often hear things like ‘things have gone bad’, ‘things have gone wrong’, ‘things have gone awry’. Those are some collocations you’ll often hear with ‘go’, where it means to sort of change state, to pass into another state.

‘A pear’. ‘A pear’ is a sweet yellowish- or brownish-green edible fruit and it is narrow towards the stalk end above where it attaches to the tree and the wider towards the base. So, you’ll often have likened overweight men to apples and overweight women to pears, right? Because men seem to carry the weight around their stomachs and women around their hips. So, men are shaped like apples, women like pears.

‘Shaped’. The word ‘shaped’ is the external form contours or outline of someone or something, right. I am obviously shaped like a person. If you carved a rock into the shape of a love heart, maybe a heart, okay. It is shaped like a heart.

Now, we can combine words, often nouns and adjectives, into compound adjectives. Right? So, this is where you’ve got multiple words describing something and we put a hyphen between them.

So, in this case ‘pear-shaped’ means ‘in the shape of a pear’, and instead of saying ‘in the shape of a pear’, it’s much quicker to just say ‘pear-shaped’. Okay?

So, let’s define the expression. If something ‘goes pear-shaped’, this means that it goes horribly wrong, it goes awry. So, for things to go bad, for things to go wrong. That is when things ‘go pear-shaped’.

So, I was looking around trying to find the origin of this expression and it seems like there’s no clear-cut origin for it. However, the first citation appears in a book called Air War South Atlantic in 1983, and it seems like it may have been slang from the Royal Air Force. Okay? And the quote from this book was, “There were two bangs very close together. The whole aircraft shook and things went ‘pear-shaped’ very quickly after that.” To say that, obviously, things went wrong, things went disastrous, right.

So, let’s go through some examples of how I would use this expression, ‘to go pear-shaped’, in day-to-day life, in real life. Alright.

Example number one. So, imagine you are planning a weekend trip away with the family. So, you want to go camping somewhere, somewhere nice nearby, maybe in a forest somewhere. So, if it’s nearby me, obviously, you could go to places like the Great Ocean Road or to Willson’s Prom, Wilson’s Promontory. You guys, if you’ve been to Victoria, may have been to these places. So, you put all your camping gear in the car, your tent, the ropes, the pegs, to hold the tent down, your portable gas stove, food supplies, sleeping gear, like mattresses that are inflatable and sleeping bags, and maybe a fishing rod or two. After you pile your kids in the car and you get your wife or your husband to get in the car as well, you jump in and you head off on the road towards this destination where you’re going to go camping. On the drive, the weather is beautiful and this was the whole reason that you wanted to go camping in the first place, you know, you were hoping for really good weather and it turned out to be the case. But then as soon as you get there, the clouds cover the sky, the day becomes overcast and rain starts pouring down, right. It starts raining cats and dogs, it starts pissing down, it’s raining heavily. So, because the weather’s turned so horrible, your plans of a wonderful weekend away camping with the family have gone pear-shaped. They’ve gone horribly wrong, they’ve gone awry, your plans went pear-shaped.

Example number two. Imagine you are a soldier in the army and you have a platoon of men that you obviously are a soldier with. You guys have a mission. You’ve got to go behind enemy lines and you have to capture a certain building. Okay? So, it’s really dark. It’s dark at night when you guys have to leave. There’s no moon. You’re hoping to be able to get there under the cover of darkness, meaning that no one will see you. You can use darkness as a means to hide whilst you infiltrate the enemy territory. So, just as you’re entering the building with all your men, an enemy soldier spots you. He puts a light on you and things go pear-shaped. You have to bail, you have to escape, you have to run away as your platoon receives enemy fire, meaning that the enemy is firing their weapons at the platoon. But fortunately, you make it back alive despite the mission going pear-shaped. Things went pear-shaped.

Example number three. Alright, imagine you are a pregnant woman, right, a woman who is close to giving birth. You’ve got two kids and a husband already, obviously, and this means that, usually, the house is incredibly noisy. There’s a lot of noise. There’s a lot of kids running around screaming and you find it very difficult to take a breather, to take a time-out, to have time to yourself to relax. Fortunately, this weekend, your husband’s offered to take the kids to the beach so that you can have a day off, right. You can take time for yourself and watch your favorite chick-flick, kick back, have your favourite nibblies out of the fridge.’Nibblies’ being food, something you like to nibble on, your ‘nibblies’, that’s a good Australian slang term. So, you put some chocolate out of the fridge after the kids have left with your husband, gone to the beach. You sit back, you kick your feet up, you relax, but just as the movie begins, your kids and husband rush back inside, and it turns out, when they got to the beach, there was a shark at the beach. And so, there were sirens going off, the lifesavers were there saying no one can go in the water, you can’t swim, it’s not safe. So, as a result, they all came home and your plans have gone pear-shaped. Your plans have been disrupted, things have gone bad, the situation’s turned horrible, things have gone awry, things have gone pear-shaped.

So, hopefully, by now, guys, you’ll understand and can use the expression ‘to go pear shaped’, it means for things to go bad or for things to go awry, for things to go wrong.

So, as usual, let’s go through a little listen and repeat exercise here, guys, where you can practice your pronunciation. By now, I am sure that you guys know the drill. Let’s just get straight into it, guys. Listen and repeat after me. Let’s go.


To go

To go pear-

To go pear-shaped x 5

Good job. Now, I’m going to put this into a sentence with ‘to make’ in the past tense, like, I made…, you made…, he made…, she made…, etc., …things go pear-shaped. Okay? I made things go pear-shaped, you made things go pear-shaped. So, listen and repeat after me, guys.

I made things go pear-shaped

You made things go pear-shaped

He made things go pear-shaped

She made things go pear-shaped

We made things go pear-shaped

They made things go pear-shaped

It made things go pear-shaped

Good job, guys. Good job. Remember, if you would like to go through this exercise in more detail with a fine-tooth comb and learn all of the more interesting aspects of pronunciation in English here, join up at, and you will get a pronunciation video for this episode, as well as all the previous episodes, and it will really help you improve your English quickly.

Today’s Aussie fact, guys. Let’s just get straight into it. Today’s Aussie fact I thought I would talk about cane toads, and I’m not sure if I’ve talked about these before or not, but maybe you guys have heard of cane toads in Australia. If you go north, you will definitely see cane toads.

So, I recently saw a news article this week about the genome having been cracked for cane toads, meaning that the genome of the cane toad, the DNA sequences of the entire DNA of the cane toad, has been successfully sequenced now, and it got me thinking about the cane toad, and I thought I would go through a number of different facts about it. Okay? And there’ll be a link in the transcript for this article if you’re interested.

Alright, cane toads. So, cane toads are a type of frog and they were introduced into Australia, they are an invasive species in Australia. They are not natural. They aren’t endemic here.

They’re about four to six inches long when they get to fully-grown size and they can weigh up to about four pounds, so close to two kilos, which is pretty impressive for a frog, and the females actually end up a lot larger than the males, and this may not come as a surprise, because females are, obviously, the animal that produces all the eggs. The males produce the sperm. The females produce the eggs. So, they’re egg producers and layers.

Once fully grown, the females can deposit up to 30,000 eggs in a single night. That’s crazy. And it only takes three days, 36 hours, for these eggs to hatch into tiny tadpoles. This is obviously one of the reasons these guys are such successful invasive species.

So, these tadpoles slowly grow their back and their front legs, usually the back first then the front, and they transform into froglets, young frogs, after only four to eight weeks.

They can live up to 10 or 15 years in the wild and up to 35 years in captivity. That’s four years older than me. Crazy!

Cane toads are highly poisonous, though, they’re very dangerous, and produce a toxin in the glands on the back of their neck so that if anyone picks them up or bites them, attacks them, often this toxin, when pressure is put on this gland, is released, it’s spat out of the frog and it can kill really quickly. So, that’s why there’s such a danger to native animals, especially, animals that hunt them.

So, the cane toad isn’t native to Australia. We established that at the start. And it was ignorantly introduced into Australia in 1935, so 83 years ago, by a man named Reginald Mungomery. So, he brought these over to Australia in a flight from Hawaii where he picked up a 102 of these cane toads, 51 males and 51 females. And this guy was supposedly trying to fix the problem of cane beetles, cane grubs, that were destroying sugar cane crops in northern Australia. So, these insects were eating the crops and he thought, you know, I’ll get some frogs. Obviously, frogs eat insects, and we’ll let them go, and hopefully this will sort out the cane beetle problem.

The problem was that the frogs can’t jump very high, right? So, they became beetles at the top of the cane, the sugar cane, which can be metres high, and the frogs don’t get up that high.

So, these toads were initially released around Cairns and Gordonvale and Innisfail, in Far North Queensland, and shortly after this ‘the march’ of the cane toad began. And this is known as the ‘Invasion Front’ in Australia. I remember this at school always being spoken about. Where the cane toads at now? Which cities or towns are they about to get to?

So, the march of the cane toad moved at about 10 kilometres a year until the 1960s when it significantly began to pick up pace, it began to speed up. By 1945, the cane toads had reached Brisbane, which was 1,600 kilometres south of where they were first released. They started knocking on the doors of people in Byron Bay in New South Wales in 1965. And by 1984, they were stealing the cat food from unsuspecting kitties in the Northern Territory. And in 2009, they finally marched across into Western Australia on the far west of the continent.

So, until today, the cane toad is one of the most catastrophic ecological disasters to have ever happened in Australia, much worse than any other introduced species. Whether it’s rabbits or foxes or donkeys, the cane toad has been devastating.

Despite this, scientists are still hopeful that they can fight against the cane toad by coming up with unique ways to control cane toad numbers. Although, we’ll never be able to completely eradicate the cane toad, hopefully, studies such as the one I mentioned at the start, where the genome has now been completely sequenced, will allow scientists to identify weaknesses in the DNA of the cane toad or maybe in diseases that affect the cane toad, but don’t affect native animals, and they can use these to exploit the cane toad and control their numbers in the future.

So, my question for you today is one: have you ever seen a cane toad in real life if you’ve been to Australia? And two: have you seen the awesome cane toad documentary Cane Toads: An Unnatural History? So, I recommend checking out that doco. It is amazing. And it is full of Australian humour and you will learn a lot about… not just Australia and Australian culture, but also about the cane toad too if you check that out.

Anyway, guys, that’s enough for today. I am struggling, I am very congested, and I’m going to have to edit this episode a lot to get rid of all the coughing and repeating of myself. Anyway, I hope you have an amazing week, I hope you’re enjoying yourselves, and I chat to you soon. See you, guys.

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