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Damp Squib #71021
05/23/02 09:57 PM
05/23/02 09:57 PM
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jmh Offline OP
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I made my usual mistake the other day in a letter to a friend and mentioned the expression "damp squid" - it just comes out like that! Googling, I realised that the world is full of people who get it wrong too. It started me thinking about the expression - it is listed in one of the dictionaries that I found as a British and Australian expression. Is this so? Is it used in 'Merka? Canada?

I assume that it has military origins - any thoughts?

Whether you use it or not, can y'all think of good alternatives?


Re: Damp Squib #71022
05/23/02 10:05 PM
05/23/02 10:05 PM
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This is what I just found on an online dictionary:

damp squib
noun Racing a horse or dog that starts well but finishes terribly. Also, squib.


I'd never heard of the damp squib. Is this racing term the one to which you were referring? This definition doesn't look like a military term. (I'll go look up the URL now...)

http://macquariedictionary.com.au/p/dictionary/slang-d.html

Re: Damp Squib #71023
05/23/02 10:10 PM
05/23/02 10:10 PM
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lower upstate New York
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lower upstate New York
It's also new to me, Jo. Can you use it in a sentence?


edit: I see WW LedIU. Odd word!

Re: Damp Squib #71024
05/23/02 10:22 PM
05/23/02 10:22 PM
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Going with the military origin, I always thought that a squib was a fuse (like on an old-fashioned cannon, or on a stick of dynamite), so a damp squib was something that just wasn't going to fly, or something disappointing, sometimes used in the same sense as a "wet blanket" - a downer.

AHD says:

1a. A small firecracker. b. A broken firecracker that burns but does not explode.

So a damp squib, according to b, is a damp, broken firecracker - talk about a disappointment!


Re: Damp Squib #71025
05/23/02 10:51 PM
05/23/02 10:51 PM
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this too shall pass
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a squib, not having much of an explosive effect to begin with, becomes even less efficacious when damp:

[Of obscure origin; perh. intended as imitative of an explosive sound.]
1. a. A common species of firework, in which the burning of the composition is usually terminated by a slight explosion.
‘Squibs are straight cylindrical cases about 6 inches long, firmly closed at one end, tightly packed with a strong composition, and capped with touch-paper’ (1886 Encycl. Brit.).
...
d. fig. or in fig. contexts. damp squib, something that fails ignominiously to satisfy the expectations aroused by it; an anti-climax, a disappointment.
1847 Alb. Smith Chr. Tadpole i. (1879) 20 The literary gentleman having finished, like a damp squib with a good bang, resumed his seat. 1963 Times 6 Mar. 11/3 Possibly because too much was expected of it, the long-range study of Britain's transport needs by a Ministry of Transport group under Sir Robert Hall is something of a damp squib. 1976 Yorkshire Even. Press 9 Dec. 8/5, I came here thinking this Scarborough business would cause fireworks, but I have never known such a damp squib.


(OED2)

I'd say that it's not heard much in the US, outside of the military.

Re: Damp Squib #71026
05/23/02 11:02 PM
05/23/02 11:02 PM
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>d. fig. or in fig. contexts. damp squib, something that fails ignominiously to satisfy the expectations aroused by it; an anti-climax, a disappointment.

So now you've got the hang of it - can you think of equivalents?


Re: Damp Squib #71027
05/23/02 11:09 PM
05/23/02 11:09 PM
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A squib is a small cylinder made of rolled paper, containing gunpowder and a fuse. If the casing is damp, the casing will burst at relatively low pressure, with consequently disappointingly reduced noise.


Re: Damp Squib #71028
05/23/02 11:15 PM
05/23/02 11:15 PM
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this too shall pass
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>can you think of equivalents?

devoid of sound and fury, signifying nothing. 8 )

()

Re: Damp Squib #71029
05/23/02 11:26 PM
05/23/02 11:26 PM
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devoid of sound and fury, signifying nothing. 8 )

Isn't that a quote from William Faulkner's As Hamlet Lay Dying?


Re: Damp Squib #71030
05/23/02 11:31 PM
05/23/02 11:31 PM
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>Isn't that a quote from William Faulkner's As Hamlet Lay Dying?

You might need to go back a little further.


To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


The Bard

[Edit: But you knew that!]

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