damp squib

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damp squib (plural damp squibs)

  1. (literally) A firework that has been wet and therefore fails to go off correctly.
  2. (idiomatic, by extension) Anything that doesn’t work properly, or fails to come up to expectations; a dud.
    • 1858 May 29, The Launceston Examiner, page 6, column 2:
      The anonymous oracle, the author of this pamphlet, is an example of entertaining dullness. He has manufactured a very damp squib; he is a serious man in motley; and practical ideas occasionally drop in among his fantastic vaticinations.
    • 2012 December 29, Paul Doyle, “Arsenal's Theo Walcott hits hat-trick in thrilling victory over Newcastle”, in The Guardian[1]:
      Arsène Wenger confessed: "The result was not an accurate indication of the match." Certainly, at half-time it seemed unlikely that Arsenal would catch fire so spectacularly because the first half was a damp squib of a display from Wenger's team, as Newcastle initially showed no ill-effects from their Old Trafford ordeal.
    • 2013, Alistair Moffat, Susan Mansfield, Alexander Smith, The Great Tapestry of Scotland: The Making of a Masterpiece:
      That whole campaign was a damp squib, they cranked it up as a real possibility that Scotland might win, and when we actually got there it didn't happen like that, and everybody came home quite early with their tails between their legs.