Posted by Sauerkraut on January 06, 2002
In Reply to: Sketch/flash in the pan posted by Marian on January 06, 2002
: My kids
are home from college at the moment. They say that the word 'sketch' is in use
among their friends there as an adjective. So far as I can tell, it means 'questionable;
may even prove unsavory upon further examination.' I asked for examples of the
word's use. They gave me these:
: "We drove up to a hostel in Chicago. It was pretty sketch," one said. "What do you mean?" I asked. "It looked run-down. We weren't even sure we wanted to check it out." Another:
: "An Internet friend can be sketch."
: Is anyone familiar with this term? On a slightly different tack, could this be an example of a "flash in the pan," which, as I understand the phrase, refers to something or someone that only momentarily basks in popularity before it fades into obscurity?
Flash in the pan in its strictest usage means innefective or nonproductive. It derives from the early days of firearms - specifically flintlock muskets. These guns used a piece of flint to strick sparks on a steel plate called a frizen. These sparks fell into a small pan of fine gunpowder that was quickly ignited and enough fire was supposed to pas through a small touchhole at the base of the gunbarrel to ignite the main charge. If the touchhole was clogged, only the powder in the pan would ignite, giving a bright flash and lots of smoke - but nothing else.
Our forbears used several other phrases derived from firearms - "lock, stock and barrel" meaning everything, because these were the three main parts of early guns, the lock being the firing mechanism and the stock being the wooden frame that held the lock and the barrel. Another common phrase was "keep your powder dry" referring not only to one's main stock of gunpowder, but also the charge in the pan of a loaded firearm. If this was damp, it might go off with a flash in the pan, but not actually fire the gun.
Bonus aside - we also hear from the world of fishing with another phrase meaning everything thats needs no explanation: He fell for it "hook, line ans sinker".