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- (literally) A firework that has been wet and therefore fails to go off correctly.
- (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:
- 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.
firework that fails to go off, due to wetting