Fall Flat

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Meaning of Idiom 'Fall Flat'

To fall flat is to completely fail or to fail to achieve the results expected or desired; to be ineffective; to cause no amusement or interest. 1,2,3

Usage

This idiom is often used to refer to failed jokes or attempts at humor but also applies to ideas, suggestions, movements, events, stories or any efforts to convince.

"His first joke as a standup comedian fell flat."

"His efforts to convince Vicky to forgive him fell flat."

Origin

Used since the first half of the 1800's. 3

Fall flat is often supposed to be a shortened version of fall flat on one's face. However, it is more likely a shorted version of an older idiom 'to fall flat upon the ear.' The original idiom probably alluded to music that failed to please and was extended generally to spoken ideas, jokes, etc.

Sources
1. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
2. Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.
3. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

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