We use a lot of stock phrases to imply quickness: From “before the ink is dry” to “at the drop of a hat” to “at full throttle.” They aren’t the sort of things most of us think about literally when we say them–but the team at Car Dealer Reviews decided to take a close look at what stock phrases like “before you know it” might actually refer to in a new infographic. (“Before you know it,” incidentally, is calculated at 250 mph, the speed of a nerve impulse.)
Of course, within the stack of cliches there are considerable variances–“like wildfire” seems like it’s pretty speedy, but at 14 mph in grassland, it’s got nothing on “a bat out of hell” (60 mph for the Mexican Free-Tailed Bat, at least flying through a corporeal realm) or a “flash in the pan” (425 mph for flame to spread through a pan of powder). Meanwhile, “before the ink is dry” is an excruciating eight seconds for ballpoint ink to set, while “in a jiffy”–the length of an alternating current power cycle–is rather snappy (that is also the same speed as a finger snap) 0.02 seconds. The next time you hear about something happening “in two shakes of a lamb’s tail” (0.4 seconds for a lamb to shake its tail twice), you can keep explain all of this to whoever is talking, and find yourself losing friends in one fell swoop (200 mph for a diving peregrine falcon), rather than an interminable drop of a hat (12.8 mph, the terminal velocity of a hat).