I learned over the weekend what a ‘squib’ is. I didn’t even know I didn’t know, but it is the answer to this crossword clue: Squid loses tale to second rate firework (5).

The dictionary defines a squib as ‘a small firework that hisses before exploding’ (and also ‘a short piece of satirical writing’). So the idiom a damp squib (an anti-climax) makes complete sense.

The word squib comes from the sixteenth century. Its origins are unknown, but it’s possibly onomatopoeic: ‘perhaps imitative of a small explosion’.

In other ‘squ’ news, I also discovered that a group of squirrels is known as a scurry. A scurry of squirrels. How brilliantly alliterative!

And a quick glance in the dictionary throws up all sorts of interesting ‘squi’ words:

squill: n. a coastal Mediterranean bulbous plant with broad leaves and white flowers.
squinancywort: n. a small plant with narrow leaves and scented white or lilac flowers, formerly used to treat quinsy.
squinch: n. a straight or arched structure across an interior angle or a square tower, bearing a super-structure such as a dome.
squireen: n. a minor landowner, especially in Ireland.

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