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faceplant also face-plant

verb [intransitive/transitive] informal

to fall over forwards so that your face hits the ground or another surface

faceplant also face-plant

noun [countable] informal

'Mom faceplants in sand during daughter's proposal video … Eva Clark faceplanted in the middle of her daughter's Breanne's proposal video …'

ABC7 News 19th May 2015

'A pug faceplanted a log while trying to jump over it in a hilarious video. Footage shows Oscar the pug falling face first into a log while attempting to copy another dog running ahead of him.'

Telegraph 27th February 2015

'I was never keen on smartphone cases until last year when I managed to smash the screen on my iPhone 5 when it slipped out of my hand and did a faceplant on the footpath.'

Sydney Morning Herald 19th June 2015

As long as I can remember, the expression 'fall flat on your face' has been the routine way to describe the rather embarrassing, comical and sometimes very painful act of falling forwards so that your face squarely hits the ground. In recent times however, it seems that this is no longer the expression of choice, this unfortunate loss of balance now neatly packaged into a new verb, to faceplant.

you can potentially faceplant into anything – a wall, the door, a clump of bushes … even your bowl of porridge!

If someone faceplants, they involuntarily fall forwards so that their whole face comes into contact with the surface they fall into. Typically this is the ground, but you can potentially faceplant into anything – a wall, the door, a clump of bushes … even your bowl of porridge! Syntactically this makes for quite an interesting verb, which works both transitively, so that the direct object is the surface you hit (see for example the second citation above), or intransitively, often with an adverbial phrase (see the first citation). There's also a countable noun homograph which refers to an instance of faceplanting, commonly occurring as do a faceplant. It turns out that it's not just people that faceplant either – dogs, cats, penguins, turtles … and, it seems, even inanimate objects like mobile phones, are all capable of faceplanting.

Faceplant appears to have made the leap from relatively obscure bit of slang to mainstream informal use in a matter of months, doubtless assisted by thousands of short online videos humorously displaying the misfortunes of countless individuals (check out this link for some examples). Faceplant appears to be another example of what's known as an internet meme, a jokey, fashionable, attention-grabbing concept that a large number of web users become aware of. Meme status invariably accelerates a word's exposure and path to popularity, as previously happened with another kind of activity involving full facial impact –the verb/noun facepalm (= the action of placing your hand flat across your face to show you're embarrassed about something).

Background – faceplant

The word faceplant appears to date back to the early 2000s, originally used to describe accidents in skateboarding and snowboarding. It was formed as a humorous variant of the word handplant, an intentional move in these sports in which the skater balances on their hand as they complete a manoeuvre.

There's also some evidence for assplant, an informal variation along the same lines which refers to the action of falling and unintentionally landing on the buttocks.

Faceplant is also a term used in professional wrestling, where it occurs as a variant of noun facebuster, a move in which an attacking wrestler forces their opponent down so that they land on the mat face first.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published 3rd November 2015.

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