screw the pooch

The phrase screw the pooch, meaning to mess up, commit a grievous error, has its first known appearance in Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book The Right Stuff:

They were the heroes of Kennedy’s political comeback, the updated new frontier whose symbol was a voyage to the moon. To announce that the second one, Gus Grissom, had prayed to the Lord: “Please, dear God, don’t let me fuck up"—but his prayer had not been answered, and the Lord let him screw the pooch—well, this was an interpretation of that event that was to be avoided at all costs.

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