in like Flynn
This phrase meaning you’re all set, everything will go like clockwork is simple rhyming slang. The belief that it is a reference to movie star Errol Flynn is false, but that idea certainly helped popularize the phrase.
The phrase first appears in July 1940, said by a fairground official telling a party that they would receive passes for a show:
Your name is Flynn...you’re in.
Another early usage is in the San Francisco Examiner, 8 February 1942:
Answer these questions correctly and your name is Flynn, meaning you’re in, provided you have two left feet and the written consent of your parents.
And this citation from the 9 February 1943 issue of the San Francisco Call-Bulletin:
SEEMS AS though my guess about the derivation of the phrase, “I’m Flynn” wasn’t altogether correct. I said it meant one was all set, ready, fixed, etc.—and that’s right. But two correspondents, O. B. and John O’Reilly agree that it began with some such phrase as “Well, I’m in like Flynn.” Finally, you were “in, Flynn.” Now it’s just “I’m Flynn.” The reverse of the phrase is not common, but it started with “I’m out like Stout,” which was shortened to “out, Stout” and is now “I’m Stout” (meaning things aren’t so good).
It is commonly thought that the phrase refers to Errol Flynn and his legendary success at luring women into bed. And it is often thought to specifically refer to Flynn’s acquittal of statuatory rape charges in February 1942. But as we have seen, the phrase was in use long before this trial. It seems much more likely that it is simply rhyming slang with Errol’s brush with law giving the phrase a popularlity boost and cementing it in its place in our lexicon.
Copyright 1997-2016, by David Wilton