Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Some sayings have more than one origin, depending on what sources you refer to.

Take, for instance, the expression “a flash in the pan”. We use this today to describe short lived popularity, or something that starts out good, but fizzles quickly. But where does it come from?

I have found two origins for “a flash in the pan”:

One origin is attributed to the gold rush days; men panning for gold would see a flash of (what might be) gold in their pan, only to find that it was really nothing.

Another source for this expression goes back to the days of the barrel loading muskets. After the marksman loaded the charge, he would sprinkle a little gun powder in what was called the ‘pan’. When the trigger was pulled, it would drop the hammer (which held a piece of flint) striking the flint against a piece of metal, which in turn created a spark that would ignite the gunpowder in the pan. This ignition would travel through a tiny hole in the side of the barrel and ignite the main charge, thus firing the round from the barrel.

Sometimes, the powder in the pan would flash, but the gun wouldn’t fire – thus, a flash in the pan.

“To sit back hoping that someday, someway, someone will make thing right is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last – but eat you he will.” – Ronald Reagan

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