The question What sparked the figurative usage of “short fuse” in the 1960s? was closed as an “opinion based” one.

I am not asking for opinions, and the fact that users give their personal opinions is not my fault.

I am asking for evidence, which may be missing or hard to produce, but not opinions.

Please reopen the above question.

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    I would change the title of the question. Where does “short fuse” come from? Users read question titles and think: "It could come from firecrackers, fireworks, or dynamite sticks. In that sense it is opinion-based. I have provided evidence that the term "short fuse" in its literal sense was around much longer than the 1960s, feel free to edit the question and use that piece of data to clarify what you are searching for.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 30, 2022 at 7:28
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    The title has been edited. It's clearer that the question is not about "where" the metaphor comes from but why it appeared in the mid-1960s. Unfortunately neither one of the answers tell you that. David's a wild guess, unresearched, and IMO, the wrong cartoon.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 30, 2022 at 9:41

1 Answer 1


Reopened! The question itself may be somewhat deceptive: it doesn't look like there's much room to come up with an answer. However, when etymology is seen as a field of ongoing research where technological advancements within the past couple decades have changed the way everything is done then you find yourself an answer. (Or at least that's my opinion.)

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    Well, if you tell users that they have to look for an answer by themselves you are actually saying that ELU is helpless. I did my research but I couldn’t come up with an answer. Users who are more tech-wise than me can come up with useful information. Why should I give up and not ask here?
    – user 66974
    May 30, 2022 at 12:43
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    You did fine. What I'm saying is that many sources — even much of the OED — that give dates for etymology are often outdated or incomplete. And that's why questions like that here are so important, because it allows new information to come to light.
    – Laurel Mod
    May 30, 2022 at 13:02
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    People have been cutting fuses for explosives for centuries, and the metaphor has been around for just as long. Look hoist on his own petard to see how old. Since there's a linear relation between length of the fuse and the time it takes to reach the explosive, a short fuse is an imminent explosion. Add the metaphor of exploding with anger and you get the metaphor you're searching for, long before the 1950s. This is not rocket surgery. May 30, 2022 at 15:42
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    @JohnLawler - the figurative usage of “have a short fuse” may date well before the 60s, but its popularity is definitely from those years see books.google.com/ngrams/…. Something happened at that time…
    – user 66974
    May 30, 2022 at 17:03
  • Google books makes lots of errors, and if there's an actual bump in usage, it should be explicable from the sources. What are the metaphors and who's using them? May 30, 2022 at 17:08
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    Isn't that just a paraphrase of what the OP was asking?
    – Zan700
    May 31, 2022 at 2:15
  • No. No data has been given here, merely allegations. A few dozen sentences with attributions, and we might have something to discuss. May 31, 2022 at 18:29
  • @Zan700 - you appear to be one of the few who have got the point. Yes, as you noted in a comment, the answer to my question has not been posted yet. The fact that the expression was actually used before the 60s is interesting, but the reason for its “explosion” of usage from then on is still unclear.
    – user 66974
    Jun 1, 2022 at 3:47
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    My answer says there isn't a single incident, be it man made disaster, movie, book, or song that popularised the expression.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 1, 2022 at 21:47
  • Exactly. In what context were the sentences used? What kinds of sentences were they? Who said them? To whom? If you know that, the rest will follow, but all we have here is unsubstantiated claims about usage in the 1960s, which frankly I doubt. Jun 8, 2022 at 19:38

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