squab (fireworks or skyrocket, not pigeon)
Posted: 12 January 2008 04:30 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I have been trying to find “squab” used in the sense of an explosive weapon or display, may be British?—it is not in my dictionaries. However, I found the following clue in a list of used books:

ORIGINAL PRINTED PATENT APPLICATION NUMBER 19,756 FOR A MEANS FOR ENABLING A BLASTING CHARGE TO BE FIRED BY A SQUAB AND DETONATOR. (1909), James Cartwright, inventor, UK

I don’t remember the context.  Any help appreciated!  ArtLvr

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Posted: 12 January 2008 05:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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"Squib”?

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Posted: 12 January 2008 07:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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That was already suggested to me, but “squib” is a dud or something that only damply goes off—not the same! But thanx.

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Posted: 13 January 2008 07:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’m sure it should be squib. A squib is not a dud, it’s a low-powered explosive often used to detonate other explosives, which is exactly the sense used in the cited example.

The phrase damp squib means dud.

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Posted: 13 January 2008 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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My bet is that there was a typo in the booklist, and that the word intended was squib.

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Posted: 13 January 2008 02:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Just to support DW, DW, and SL: the OED’s definition for squib (which they supplement by quoting the Britannica):

1. a. A common species of firework, in which the burning of the composition is usually terminated by a slight explosion.
‘Squibs are straight cylindrical cases about 6 inches long, firmly closed at one end, tightly packed with a strong composition, and capped with touch-paper’ (1886 Encycl. Brit. XX. 136).

The OED also records the use of “squib” to as a device for setting off larger explosive charges, matching the meaning in the patent application:

[2]c. Mining. (See quots.)
1881 RAYMOND Mining Gloss., Squib, a slow-match or safety-fuse, used with a barrel. 1883 GRESLEY Gloss. Coal-m. 234 Squib, a straw, rush, paper, or quill tube filled with a priming of gunpowder,..and ignited by means of a smift.

As Dave says, it’s only damp squib that means “dud”. 

[1]d. fig. or in fig. contexts. damp squib, something that fails ignominiously to satisfy the expectations aroused by it; an anti-climax, a disappointment.

I’m sure “squab” in the application is either a typo or an OCR error.  Certainly the OED records no such usage.

Is there an online archive of British patent applications?  It’s possible to view images of old US applications online. [Correction: old patents, not, IIRC, applications that were rejected.]

[ Edited: 13 January 2008 06:20 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 13 January 2008 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I’m betting the erroneous dud sense of squib is influenced by J.K. Rowling’s use of the word in the Harry Potter series to mean the child of a wizard who has limited or no magical abilities.

There’s also a British usage meaning a petty or insignificant person, dating to the late 16th century. I’ll bet Rowling conflated, deliberately or not, the senses of insignificant person and low-powered explosive to come up with the Potterverse sense.

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Posted: 13 January 2008 06:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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MW3: “Squib”, sense 1b:

//a broken firecracker the powder in which burns with a fizz//

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Posted: 14 January 2008 04:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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According to Leslie Dunkling’s A Dictionary of Epithets and Forms of Address, the “petty or insignificant person” sense of “squib” was in use only in the 16th and 17th centuries, though the Oxford Dictionary of Slang says “squib” was still in use in Australia in the last century to mean “small or insignificant person”; and was also “applied to a racehorse lacking stamina’; and was used as a verb meaning “to lose one’s nerve, withdraw pusillanimously”, so it looks as if the negative sense of “squib"in late 16th century British survived into 20th century Antipodean.

However, Dunkling also says the word is “in modern use” by “some British children” as “an instant nickname for a very small child”, which he suggests comes from the dialect term “squib” meaning a toy squirt or syringe (and which thus matches exactly the insult “little squirt"). So JKR may well have heard “squib” used in a British school playground, and as Mr Wilton suggests, amalgamated this and the “damp squib” idea to use in the “Potterverse” (a word I see gets 774 g-hits) for wizards’ children who can’t do magic.

FWIW, I see Eric Partridge, who I know is not highly regarded by many on this board, suggests squib in both the explosive/firecracker and “brief witty speech or writing” senses, is “apparently” from Medieval English “squippen”, a varient of “swippen”, to move swiftly.  Before the health-and-safety lobby got them outlawed, squibs, also known as jumping jacks or Chinese crackers, were, with bangers, part of the traditional British Bonfire Night, November 5: when set off, these squibs would leap around swiftly in a series of loud and starling explosions

Oh, and squib is also now the name of a type of small sailing boat.

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Posted: 14 January 2008 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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ArtLvr - 12 January 2008 04:30 PM

I don’t remember the context.  Any help appreciated!  ArtLvr

Could the context be this January 5 post on Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle ?

ArtLvr said…
Bravo, Emily, for your drawing—best chuckle of the day! No real “aha” in the puzzle, but I liked the chain of fireworks words: squab, fuses, and edam on a cracker. Dud would have been nice in there somewhere to sum up my let-down. Enjoyed the comments more than the puzzle: pleased to read more about Heine, Poe et al!

followed by

ArtLvr said…
Help! Having mentioned “squab” in relation to fireworks, where did I get that? I think it refers to small skyrocket, but it’s not in my dictionaries. Best I could find was: ORIGINAL PRINTED PATENT APPLICATION NUMBER 19,756 FOR A MEANS FOR ENABLING A BLASTING CHARGE TO BE FIRED BY A SQUAB AND DETONATOR. (1909), James Cartwright, inventor, UK… This was in a used books list. Can anyone elucidate?

BTW, both “lists of old books” that Google finds are links to the same used book on Amazon.com so it’s (possibly) one person’s mistake.  I have sent a query to the seller.

There is a UK patent database online but it doesn’t seem to go back that far (and/or that number doesn’t match the current numbering system).  In the US database, that number is a patent on a leather process from 1856.  Patents in both databases with the word squab in the title seem to have something to do with upholstery or seating/chairs.

[ Edited: 14 January 2008 10:23 AM by Myridon ]
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Posted: 14 January 2008 10:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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It looks like an error on the part of the poster in that forum. The puzzle in question is the Sunday, 6 Jan 2008 NYT crossword. The clue for squab is “Bird baked in a pie.” Nothing to do with explosives.

[ Edited: 15 January 2008 06:45 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 14 January 2008 03:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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It looks like an error on the part of the poster. The puzzle in question is the Sunday, 6 Jan 2008 NYT crossword. The clue for squab is “Bird baked in a pie.” Nothing to do with explosives.

Seems like this has all been a bit of a damp ... er ... what’s the word I’m looking for ...

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Posted: 27 January 2008 08:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Thanks to everyone who posted replies here!  Yes, I found this website after posting on Rex Parker’s NYT crossword blog. I noted then that dictionary definitions of “squab” mainly derived from young pigeons, and had apparently been appropriated into unpholstery to refer to a small puffy cushion or to wadding—the latter also known in early firearms, of course. So it seemed there might be a tenuous connection from there to small fireworks, but never mind!  It’s neat to hear that a small sailboat has been dubbed a “squib” and this is probably not perjorative but connotes a zippy little firecracke of a ship!!

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Posted: 27 January 2008 08:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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p.s. Good luck to Myridon, who is trying to get a clarification from the seller of the Brit patent application—I was desperate to get an answer from another bookseller, who offered a 1932 reprint of an 1898 book “with newspaper clippings pasted inside the cover”. I was hoping for an obit of the author of the original book, a listed artist whose death date is still unknown. Never got a reply of any sort… The website I use for finding old books is http://www.addall.com (includes Amazon and many others).

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