damp squib

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damp squib (plural damp squibs)

  1. (Britain) A firework that fails to go off, due to wetting.
  2. (idiomatic, by extension) Anything that doesn’t work properly, or fails to come up to expectations.
    • 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.