Fall through the cracks and slip through the cracks

Fall through the cracks and slip through the cracks are versions of an idiom that may not be as old as you think. We will examine the meaning of the expressions fall through the cracks and slip through the cracks, their etymology, and some examples of their use in sentences.

To fall through the cracks or to slip through the cracks means to remain unnoticed or unaddressed, to not receive the attention or the help that one needs, to be overlooked or ignored. Sometimes something falls through the cracks or slips through the cracks accidentally, though other times something falls through the cracks or slips through the cracks because no one wishes to take the time or effort to address it. The idiom fall through the cracks or slip through the cracks is often used to explain a situation that is mismanaged. It is usually meant as an excuse or to mitigate responsibility. The expressions fall through the cracks and slip through the cracks came into use in the mid-twentieth century. The exact origin is unknown, but it reflects the idea that something that should have been contained or captured somehow seeped away, unnoticed. Related phrases are falls through the cracks, fell through the cracks, falling through the cracks, slips through the cracks, slipped through the cracks, slipping through the cracks. According to Google Ngram, fall through the cracks is about twice as popular as slip through the cracks. Fall between the cracks is an eggcorn, which is a misheard phrase that retains the original meaning.

Examples

By eliminating funding for these programs, President Trump and Secretary DeVos are systematically targeting poor and minority children who are statistically more likely to fall through the cracks in our education system. (The Concord Monitor)

Districts without a lot of property wealth to tax, but also without a high population of low-income students who generate added state aid, fall through the cracks under the various formula fixes. (Commonwealth Magazine)

“I think we need to make sure we are not letting kids who are in the high-functioning zone slip through the cracks,” Elly Henderson said. (The Daily Astorian)

U.S. research institutions, including the University of Iowa, often benefit from international cooperation, but opening those doors could allow some information to slip through the cracks via intellectual theft. (The Daily Iowan)