flash in the pan love

flash in the pan

Definitions

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun idiomatic A transient occurrence with no long-term effect.
  • noun idiomatic A career notable for early success not followed by significant accomplishment.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun someone who enjoys transient success but then fails

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From the days of flintlock firearms, where the main charge was intended to be fired by a small charge of gunpowder in the priming pan. If the resultant fire did not pass through the touch-hole and ignite the main charge, the momentary coruscation produced noise and smoke, but no substantial effect, and was termed a “flash in the pan”. Sometimes called "fluff in the pan", the term refers to any ineffectual, short, spasmodic effort which dies in the attempt, such as an explosion of priming in the lockpan of a gun, while the gun itself does not go off.

Examples

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Comments

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  • The origin of this phrase is similar to that of "going off half-cocked." On black-powder muskets, a flash in the pan occurs when the flint strikes the hammer and creates a spark that ignites the powder in the pan (outside the barrel), but the flame does not transfer into the barrel. The powder in the barrel doesn't ignite, and the bullet (if there is one) doesn't go anywhere. So it's just a flash--no shot, no effect.

    October 20, 2007

  • Interestingly, to me, is that an actual flash in the pan, when it catches the sun just right, is a good metaphor for a fleeting event. An inconvenient, incommensurate feature of the metaphor is that it's hardly of no effect when it blinds you momentarily!

    October 20, 2007

  • Yeah, I think that's the connotation that most people mean when they use this phrase--a fleeting event, rather than an ineffectual one. But I guess those meanings kind of intersect in this saying.

    October 21, 2007