[lit-ideas] Re: Pratts

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 02 Jun 2011 14:07:44 -0700

Chris Bruce writes
I've just looked up 'pratfall' in my dictionary and it gives no etymology, stating merely that a pratfall is "a fall onto one's buttocks ."  This, I suppose, brings us back to 'Pratt's Bottom'.  Anyone know the etymology of 'pratfall'?


prat Look up
              prat at Dictionary.com
“buttock,” 1560s, criminals’ slang, of unknown origin. Later in U.S. criminal slang, “hip pocket” (1914), and in British slang “contemptible person” (1968).


OED Third edition, March 2007; online version March 2001

 1. orig. Theatre. A comedy fall; a fall on to the buttocks.

1939    N. Coward Words & Music in Play Parade II. 108   Don't do a pratfall in your first routine.
1941    L. Rosten Hollywood 316   The Hollywood writers—graduates of the westerns‥masters of the chase, the ‘pratt-fall’‥—kept the movies moving.
1952    ‘E. Box’ Death in Fifth Position (1954) ii. 47   Some homicidal maniac‥who enjoyed seeing ballerinas take fatal pratfalls.
1961    Guardian 27 Apr. 9/4   A more intelligent form of humour—away from the pratfall type of thing.
1990    Premiere June 57/3   A guy‥dropped a supersize Coke onto the already slick floor, then did a pratfall, landing on his tailbone.
2000    Times 7 Aug. ii. 13/4   Mullarkey's comic talent lies in the contrast between his demure and dapper image and his unerring ability for inelegant pratfalls.

 2. fig. and in extended use. A fall that causes humiliation; an embarrassing failure or mistake.

1941    Time Mag. 18 Aug. 14/2   In one skirmish after another they routed the Lewis-Addes side. By week's end it was plain that Mr. Lewis was taking a pratfall.
1953    R. Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 (1954) i. 56   Life becomes one big pratfall.
1971    Guardian 25 Nov. 17/2   Performers who write their own material often take enormous pratfalls.
1977    Rolling Stone 7 Apr. 43/1   Why has an important investigation so quickly degenerated into a series of pratfalls?
1995    Private Eye 27 Jan. 6/1   John Major, having clumsily careered into every political obstacle in his path so far might now be blundering towards the biggest pratfall of them all: a premature general election.
2000    W. Self How Dead Live (2001) 15   A nation who've always been convulsed by the world's pratfall, when it was they who yanked away the chair.


May I be of service to you in any other way?

Robert Paul


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