The pointless flash-mob

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Wed May 4 15:52:36 UTC 2011

At 5/4/2011 08:25 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>What possible connection is there between "flash mob" and criminal "flash"?

I personally did not intend any such connection.  When I mentioned
the criminal "flash", it was only to point out that that kind of
"flash mob" also was not in the OED and was not to be confused with the modern.

>Without real evidence, any relationship between current and 150-year-old
>"flash mobs" must be considered coincidental.
>If "flash drives" existed in 2003 (you plug in 'em briefly and then yank 'em
>out), I'd think that has a closer semantic connection.

I assume the modern "flash" is derived rather from the sudden
appearance and disappearance -- "in a flash".  (Which phrase, I see,
goes back to much before Bill Wasik -- to Bacon and Milton.)

      The OED does have "flash drive" from 1992, when "The
Conner/Intel *flash drives are set for release".  But, to the best of
my recollection, the initial meaning was a device that used "flash
memory" (non-volatile), not something that was necessarily quickly
removable.  "fFash memory" -- "Computing[:] a type of non-volatile
memory in which data can be written or erased only in blocks (rather
than individual bytes or words), used in storage media such as memory
cards or USB flash drives."
      1988    N.Y. Times 23 Mar. d6/1   A memory chip that retains
its memory without electrical power yet remains fast and cheap...
*Flash memories and ferroelectric memories..offer promise.
      Although it was not soon cheap enough to replace RAM:
      1994    What PC? Oct. 144/2   Flash memory is expensive,
however, which is why computers don't simply use it rather than Ram.

[This is from a draft addition July 2010; the mention of USB, from
which devices are detachable, dates from later than these two
quotations; that is, from c1995 (OED, s.v. "U").]


>Of course, the fact that I know little of flash-drive history is deeply
>shaming to me.

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list