Monday, January 22, 2018


Tom from Maple City asked about the word flop. He was particularly interested in its multiple meanings.

Let’s start a little sideways. Flop is onomatopoeia, meaning that the word was formed to imitate a sound. In this case, it attempts to imitate something hitting the ground in a restrained way. It joins words like thud (a harder collision), chink and plink (metallic sounds), kerplunk, splash, or plop (an object falling into water), and splat (a soft or largely liquid object hitting the ground, such as a raw egg).

Back to the word flop. It has gone through many mutations. In the 17th century, it meant to sway loosely. By 1823, it meant to throw down; you might flop onto a couch. By 1827, it expanded to mean to move clumsily and then collide with a thud. By the end of the 19th century, it took on a metaphorical meaning – to make a sudden change in attitude or behavior; flip-flop developed as a rhyming reduplication. At the end of that century, it had come to mean to fail, like a theatrical flop.

In gaming, it referred to the first 3 cards dealt face up to be used as community cards in certain types of poker. In sports such as basketball, it means to exaggerate a push or shove in order to draw a foul.

Finally, a flop house is a cheap place to stay with few amenities except a bed to throw yourself onto, and flop sweat is a nervous sweat caused by fear of failure—fear of flopping. And if you are wearing flip flops, your loose-fitting sandals will probably make a slapping sound as you walk.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about two year’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.


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