In like Flynn (01/25)

As I grow older, I catch myself questioning sayings that I or others around me are saying.

For instance, ‘In like Flynn’ came up in a conversation at the movie theater on Sunday. I asked aloud if Flynn refers to the swashbuckling actor, Errol Flynn, when my companion did not know- I decided to take action.

wicked, wicked ways

wicked, wicked ways


After scouring the internet (or at the least the first page of google) I discovered the following:

Apparently, “in” was used in for quite some time in regard to an individual’s success. The first time that we saw “in like Flynn” in print was in the 1946 edition of American Speech. The intention of the phrase has been explained two ways.

The PG version:

“In like Flynn, everything is O.K. In other words, the pilot is having no more trouble than Errol Flynn has in his cinematic feats.”

This version was said to be used by pilots in WWII and is the example cited in the 1946 edition of American Speech.

The Rated R version:

“Relax. You’re there. She’s practically eating out of your hand. Just buy her another drink and you’ll be in like Flynn.”

This version has more of a modern twist and refers to sexual exploits (just in case you didn’t figure that out on your own…). Supposedly Mr. Flynn was well endowed and really not ashamed in the least about it. You might say he gladly shared the – ahem- “gift” that was given him.

I was satisfied with knowing the above because it proved that my guess was correct.

However, there is one more less likely source to this saying – political organizer Edward J. Flynn.

Edward J. Flynn (R)

Edward J. Flynn (R)

Edward J. Flynn (AKA Boss Flynn) was a New York City political boss who became a campaign manager for the Democratic party during FDR’s presidency. “In like Flynn” may have been used as a political saying to boost the prominence of Boss Flynn. However, this research only surfaced after etymologists began looking in the origin.

It really becomes a what came first, the chicken or the egg – but in this instance I think its safe to say Errol came first.

Further reading:

The Straight Dope

Urban Dictionary

The Phrase Finder

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