May 19, 2007

Word Play

Digby used the phrase "... in like Flynn" in this post. I always thought the phrase was "... in like Flynt." Well, it turns out both of these sayings are right.

"In like Flynn" is an Australian saying:

In Australia the phrase "In like Flynn" seems to be used to denote that one is well accepted into a particular group or culture or that one is safe or secure or that something is deeply and securely imbedded.

The phrase seems to be linked to a famous Australian Presbyterian Clergyman and Missionary, the Very Reverend John Flynn (1880 to 1951). His fame is based on his work and involvement in developing the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the "Pedal Radio" in the late 1920's and early 1930's.

His base of operations for much of his ministry was at (Australian Inland Mission) Alice Springs in Central Australia.

John Flynn became a legend in his own life time and was widely known as "Flynn of the Inland"

Because the town of Alice Springs is so geographically centrally located in Australia it is generally deemed not possible to get any further into the interior.

Hence the phrase "in like Flynn" in an Australian context.

So how did the phrase come to America? According to my citation, some believe that the saying came about independently of the Australian usage and even that the Australian usage was in reference to Errol Flynn, the swashbuckling actor. As with many popular sayings, there is more than one theory of the origin.

So how did "Flynn" morph into "Flynt?"

There was a series of spy-spoof movies, the first of which was originally intended to be titled "In Like Flynn," but the censors of the time (1960's? '70s?) wouldn't permit it - so it became "In Like Flynt," a profound change that miraculously preserved our collective virtue as a nation.


Posted by Mary at May 19, 2007 09:30 AM | Miscellaneous | Technorati links |

The Aussie version of the story seems rather far-fetched. For that matter, your version of the American version of the story doesn't make it clear why "the censors" would want to elide an allusion to Errol Flynn, or why his name would signify being "in" in the first place. The usual answer makes reference to his facility in evading conviction for statutory rape.

Wikipedia also claims that Flynn himself titled his autobiography In Like Me but the publisher refused to print it under that name. (It was successful under the title My Wicked, Wicked Ways.)

The "Very Reverend John Flynn", indeed.

Posted by: Kevin T. Keith at May 19, 2007 06:45 PM

The Flint of the movies was spelled with an I, and two movies doesn't make much of a series. (They're fun spoofs, though, and part of the inspiration for the Austin Powers movies.) If you read the correction linked to at the bottom of the page you cited you would know that.

I'm surprised no one's tried to argue the Flynt in question was Larry of Hustler fame, it's equally as true (if by true one means specious).

Posted by: Dennis Savage at May 20, 2007 09:46 AM