"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Light blue touch-paper

I'm not sure if folk of a younger generation can finish the sentence that begins 'Light blue touch-paper' but at one time it was written on every firework and was probably one of the first standard safety warnings for the general public. (Standard being itself a play on words for those of my generation since Standard Fireworks were one of the main manufacturers).

The full sentence was 'Light blue touch-paper - stand well back' later replaced by 'Light blue touch-paper and retire.' The expression 'Light blue touch-paper!' therefore became a way of suggesting someone had done something dangerous or foolhardy and needed to beware of the consequences, especially, for example, when having said something that was likely to cause someone else to respond explosively.


  1. I didnt know I knew it but when I read that i shouted out stand well back....how'd that happen osmosis...memory l guess very interesting..

  2. "and retire" ?? Way to obfuscate safety directions!! "Stand well back" ...is somewhat better. Keep It Simple... and Safe.

  3. It's also a reference to a comment made by someone, who thereby begins a ferocious, volatile and heated debate - but who personally contributes nothing more than their initial explosive comment. Common on forums as thread-starters.... 5 pages and much discussion later (with a few Moderator edits and infractions thrown in for good measure) and they're still nowhere to be seen!