Blow Out

Two other, more modern, uses of “blow-out” are worth mentioning because the second may feed into “blow-out sale” a bit. In the 1920s, blow-out” appeared as US slang meaning “a total failure; a fiasco or debacle” (“I walk over … knowing full well what it’s like to be in his shoes, facing a financial blowout, gobsmacked by your own bovine stupidity,” 2004). But for every loser there is a winner, and by the 1930s, this “failure” sense had produced its opposite, the use of “blow-out” to mean a sweeping and dramatic victory, especially in sports or politics (“The Tigers … lost a total of seven games — four by blowouts and three by slim margins,” 1991). In a sports-obsessed nation like the US, I suspect that this “stunning victory” sense also lurks behind “blow-out sale.”

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2 comments on this post.
  1. Susan Strobel:

    And don’t forget “blowout” in the oil drilling sense:

    A blowout is the uncontrolled release of crude oil and/or natural gas from an oil well or gas well after pressure control systems have failed.[1]

    Prior to the advent of pressure control equipment in the 1920s, the uncontrolled release of oil and gas from a well while drilling was common and was known as an oil gusher, gusher or wild well.

  2. Blowout, sleaze | Arnold Zwicky's Blog:

    […] this most recent sense development, see Evan Morris on his Word Detective site: The logic behind this use [‘large or lavish meal’] of “blow-out” is that of excess without […]

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