Squibs and squabs

When an event is not very successful, you could say that it went off like a damp squib, or even a damp squid, as a friend mistakenly said last night.

A squib is obviously something that does not work properly when it’s wet, and I had an idea that it was some kind of explosive.

According to Reverso, a squib is:

1. a firework
2. a firework that does not explode because of a fault; dud
3. a short witty attack; lampoon
4. an electric device for firing a rocket engine
5. an insignificant person (obsolete)
6. a coward (Aus/NZ slang)

And a damp squib is “something intended but failing to impress”.

Etymology: probably imitative of a quick light explosion.

An unrelated, but similar-sounding word is squab, which is:

1. a young unfledged bird, esp. a pigeon
2. a short fat person
3. a well-stuffed bolster or cushion; a sofa
4. (of birds) recently hatched and still unfledged
5. short and fat

Etymology: probably of Germanic origin; compare Swedish dialect sqvabb (flabby skin), sqvabba (fat woman), German Quabbe (soft mass), Norwegian kvabb (mud)

Source: http://dictionary.reverso.net/english-definition/squab

Squib, squab and squid are all good words for Scrabble.

Are there equivalents of damp squibs in other languages?

3 thoughts on “Squibs and squabs

  1. In the US, I’ve also seen squib used to mean any very short news article. And in the Harry Potter books, a Squib is a person who has magical parents but no ability to use magic.

  2. “Damp squib” sounds like “niewypał” which means ammunition that failed to explode (bomb, hand grenade, bullet for shotgun, etc.) You can use it also in a sense of somebody’s seemingly good idea that failed to work, a joke that was totally not funny, etc.

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