Wednesday, July 8, 2009
fiasco \fē-ˈäs-(ˌ)kō, -ˈas-\ noun: bottle, flask; especially a bulbous long-necked straw-covered bottle for wine
Etymology: Italian, from Late Latin flasco bottle, probably of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German flaska bottle
fiasco \fē-ˈas-(ˌ)kō also -ˈäs-\ noun: a complete failure
Etymology: French, from Italian, from fare fiasco, literally, to make a bottle
Why would making a bottle be an idiom for “a complete failure?” According to Wiktionary the phrase is used in Italian theater to mean “failure in a performance.” That’s still not an explanation, but at least it hints at a context. Wiktionary also goes on to point out an idiomatic similarity with the British English phrase to bottle out, meaning “to lose one’s nerve.”
Wiktionary again: “An alternative interpretation of the Italian fare fiasco as a meaning for failure can be traced to production of glass bottles by glass blowing. A mistake in the process would result in a bottle of irregular shape with a protruding or enlarged base.” Recall the first definition of fiasco above: a bulbous bottle for wine. (Chianti is often sold in these fiaschi; click here for a picture of one.) Italian also has a word for a regularly shaped bottle: bottiglia. So, as a glassblower, if you wanted to make a bottiglia, but instead blew too hard and wound up with a fiasco, you would have made a mistake relative to your intention, even if the resultant vessel could do its job, especially for Chianti.