Now, the VOA Special English program WORDSANDTHEIR STORIES.
Every week at this time, the Voice ofAmerica tellsabout popular words and expressions used intheUnited States.Some expressions have made ajump from sports events to everyday life. Onesuchexpression is fall guy. A fall guy is the personwho someone decides will bethe loser or victim.
The first fall guys were men who wrestledfor money. At the end of the nineteenth century, wrestling was a very popularsport in theUnited States.Wrestling competitions were held notonly in big cities, but also at countryfairs and traveling shows. As the sport became morepopular, it became less andless of a sport. Many of the matches were fixed. The wrestlersknew -- beforethe match -- which one of them would be the winner.
The goal in wrestling is to hold your opponent'sshoulders down against the floor. This is called afall. Sometimes, one of thewrestlers would be paid before the match to take the fall. He wouldagree to bethe loser...the fall guy.
Today, a fall guy is anyone who is trickedinto taking the blame for the crime or wrongdoingof someone else. There arefall guys in many situations -- people who publicly take the blamewhensomething goes wrong.
A fall guy takes the rap for somethingwrong or illegal. He accepts responsibility andpunishment for what someoneelse did. The fall guy may have been involved in the situation, but was not theperson who should be blamed.
The word rap has meant blame for severalhundred years. The expression to take the rap firstwas used about one hundredyears ago.
Another similar expression is bum rap. Aperson receives a bum rap if he is found guilty of acrime...but is reallyinnocent.
Sometimes, a fall guy may not realize he isthe fall guy until he is the victim of a bum rap. Inthat case, he may feelthat he has been framed. To frame someone is to create false evidenceto makean innocent person seem guilty.
Some word experts say the expression toframe someone comes from the way wood must befitted closely around a paintingor photograph to frame it. In the same way, evidence must bedesigned perfectlyif it is to frame an innocent person to make him or her seem guilty.
This VOA Special English program WORDS ANDTHEIR STORIES was written by Marilyn RiceChristiano. This is Warren Scheer.
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