Hang fire with the polysyllabics
FANS of plain English are not always fans of thesauruses, because they can prompt novice writers to use needless polysyllabics. But they do have their uses dictionaries are likely to miss phrases such as this, but a thesaurus gives a clue. It lists hang fire alongside misfire, flash in the pan and fizzle out - all terms relating to gunnery or musketry.
When a soldier lit the fuse in a cannon there could be quite a delay until the charge ignited, and this was known as hanging fire. Similarly a flash in the pan related to a failed attempt to fire a flintlock musket, when the flint produced a spark in the priming pan but did not ignite the charge.
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