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Setting Thames on fire

Posted by Gary Martin on July 28, 2006

In Reply to: Setting Thames on fire posted by Bob on July 28, 2006

: : Setting Thames on fire = The Thames was a carding machine used to dress cotton and it was activated by turning a handle. Someone who was lethatgic was said not to be likely to set the machine on fire because of friction. Likely explanation ?

: Since there is a simlar Roman expression, using the Tiber River, and a German one using the Rhine, the relation to the carding machine seems unlikely to be the source. See previous discussion at

That phrase was in the newspapers over here (UK) in 2000. There was a lot of hype about a millennium fireworks event in London called the 'River of Fire'. It turned out to be something of a damp squib and the newshounds jumped on 'Didn't set the Thames on fire' as the next day's headline.