Posted by Gerald Ryan on February 26, 2004
I think 'fire in the hole' goes back to wooden war ships. When cannons were fired they recoiled on ropes fixed through pulleys. If a gun recoiled it could kill anyone standing behind it, in the crowded gun deck. The phrase fire in the hole was called when a flaming torch was put to the powder in the breech. This took 2/3 seconds to ignite and the shout was a warning that the gun was about to fire, and therefore recoil.