The shit hits the fan generally means that things are going to (or have just gotten) get very ugly. People are going to be hurt/maimed/killed/not amused. Example usage:

"What do you mean this nuclear reactor has no safety cutoff? If the media gets hold of this, the shit will hit the fan! We'll lose our jobs."

or

Jack walked into the kitchen and saw that little Billy, had, through his cooking endeavours in the kitchen; had well and truly destroyed every working item in it. That's when the shit hit the fan. Jack grabbed at Billy, who tripped, but as he did so, pulled a knife down with him, which fell into Jack's foot, who fell backwards, tripped over the cable with the blender full of food, which landed on Billy's head, crushing his skull and killing him instantly.
Variants of this phrase are either of the bowdlerisation variety (e.g. "the faeces have hit the fan"); or the exaggeration variety (e.g. "the sewage plant was soon to have an encounter with the jet turbine").
One of my favorite Richard K. Feynmann anecdotes arises from the Space Shuttle program. In one of the two books on him, a friend is reminiscing about the time that Feynmann sent him a diagram of NASA's proposed zero-gravity toilet. Immediately behind the user's...er, behind, there is a spinning device which NASA has labeled 'Solid/Fluid Waste Separator.' Next to it, Feynmann had pencilled in an arrow pointing to the device, with the notation "As near as I can figure, the shit is supposed to hit the fan!"

The man was a genius.

Peter Cook, the sadly-missed British satirist, once told a story in an interview (with Clive Anderson, I think) of how a member of the audience at a Sex Pistols gig got up on the stage and slapped Johnny Rotten in the face.

He said it was the first recorded instance of the fan hitting the shit.

And it's still, in my opinion, one of the funniest things that has ever been said.


the first (of many) excerpts from Anj's Almost-Photographic Memory For Pointless And Irrelevant Comedy Moments. ladies and gentlemen, start your downvote engines. ;)

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