squidSo it’s not “damp squid”, as I’d always thought. This is another one to put in my little box of misunderstood phrases (see “country pumpkin” in the comments of my post on accents). What led me to look into this expression, used by David Cameron to describe the biggest public sector strike since the 70s, was that I heard it translated as un pétard mouillé (a damp banger) on the French radio. I was all pleased. Nothing like a lovely translation on the news to make me smile. In fact, this was an example of a French translation far surpassing the quality of the original English metaphor. Honestly, “damp squid”? Of course squids are damp, they live in the sea! Why should this describe an anticlimax?
Because, of course, it’s not “damp squid”, but “damp squib”. A squib is a miniature explosive, which looks a lot like a… pétard (banger).
Thankfully, I’m not alone in mangling common expressions: see the top 10 misquoted phrases in Britain.
Squid photo by Queen of subtle.