Posted by ESC on March 25, 2003
In Reply to: "Flash in the pan" posted by Blondin on March 25, 2003
: I'm new here so forgive me if I post this in the wrong place.
: I wanted to add another possible derivation for the "flash in the pan" expression.
: The usual context is something or someone who appears promising at first but turns out to be a disappointment. I have heard the "flintlock misfire" explanantion but I have also heard that it may refer to early gold-diggers panning for gold. A flash in the pan could mean you've struck gold.
FLASH IN THE PAN - "A temporary success or attraction.It was defined as follows in the 1810 edition of Charles James's 'A New and Enlarged Military Dictionary': 'a flash in the pan, an explosion of gunpowder without any communication beyond the touchhole.'" From "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).
The gold was "epidemic" in 1849 (that's why they called the prospectors "forty-niners"), according to an online history http://www.isu.edu/~trinmich/fever.html
The miners might have used the expression as a pun.