General English


  • noun a failure, or something which has not been successful



  • noun a place to sleep, a temporary bed or shelter. Especially in the USA the term has been used by vagrants since the early 20th century.
  • noun excreta. Probably originating in the USA, where dogflop is heard, this euphemism is paralleled by the British plop(s).
  • verb to collapse exhausted, go to bed
  • verb to consent to sex. In this sense the word has been used, albeit rarely, in the USA at least since Raymond Chandler’s private eye Philip Marlowe said of a woman that she would ‘flop at the drop of a hat’.


  • A play or musical that fails to run. Even the most famous playwrightshave suffered humiliating disasters of this kind. At the height ofhis popularity, Noël Coward suffered a major embarrassmentwith Sirocco, produced at Daly's Theatre, London, in 1927.Although the leading actress, Frances Doble, gave a quivering curtainspeech calling it the happiest night of her life, the entire castwas booed for ten minutes.

    Some playwrights and actors throw in the towel. When the audiencebegan booing Charles Lamb's farce Mr H at Drury Lane in 1806,he joined in. Afterwards he explained that he booed and hissed sonobody would know he was the author. On one occasion Ralph Richardsonstopped acting in mid-scene; walking towards the audience he asked,"Is there a doctor in the house?" When one stood up, Richardsonsaid: "Doctor, isn't this play awful?"

    Expensive musicals are by no means exempt. Stephen Sondheim'sAnyone Can Whistle ran on Broadway for only eight nights in1964; those who saw it are said to hold an annual reunion to analysethe disaster. The 1975 rock opera Lieutenant, about the MyLai massacre, came off after nine performances (featuring such songs as'Kill' and 'Massacre'). Yul Brynner starred in a musical version ofThe Odyssey entitled Home, Sweet Homer, which ran foronly one night in 1976. In 1981 a Broadway revival of Can-Canran for five performances and lost over $2 million. The RSC's Carrie,a musical based on the Stephen King shocker, closed after four performancesin 1988, while Oscar Wilde (2004), with words and music by the Britishdisc jockey Mike Read, came off after a single disastrous night. The list oftheatrical flops is long and distressing.