Shoots flaming balls with reports

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From Bill Benzon:

"Flaming balls" and "reports" may very well be the standard technical terminology for the visual and auditory design features of roman candles. None of the rest of the visible text shows signs of translation problems. But still…


  1. richardelguru said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 6:06 am

    My wife once had a boss like that.

  2. Geoffrey K. Pullum said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 6:36 am

    To the extent that "report" is used at all as a word for the sound of an explosion or gunshot [the OED gives " A resounding noise, esp. that caused by the discharge of a firearm or explosive" and "In pyrotechnics: a quantity of an explosive substance (esp. in the form of a powder) added to a firework to create a loud bang"], it is a word used by insiders in the explosives and fireworks industries or others (like the military) who professionally blow stuff up. So I would be tempted to classify this as not just about semantics, but nerdview. In fact I yielded to that temptation: I logged in and tagged this post with the "Nerdview" category.

  3. GH said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 6:48 am

    "Report" for the sound of a gunshot or an explosion is not all that obscure, surely? I'm fairly confident it's something you hear occasionally on the news, either when they're reporting from war zones or quoting from police reports. (A Google News search for "loud reports" produces a substantial though not huge list of relevant articles.)

  4. Ellen K. said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 7:58 am

    I knew "report" here had something to do with guns and not it's more common meaning, but not what specifically it means.

  5. Bill Benzon said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 9:15 am

    Did the person who wrote that line have a pretty good idea how it would come across? I can go either way on that.

  6. Bill Benzon said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 9:17 am

    Here's a little context:

    [(myl) So folks don't have follow the link:

    This shows us that the muralist had the same kind of reaction as most of the rest of us — but as a result it's less clear what the original packaging was like. Luckily a little internet search shows that this is standard fireworks nerdview:


  7. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 9:32 am

    OK, we've got the "reports" covered. Now what about the "flaming balls"? As someone who loves to watch fireworks, I can imagine that there are many moments during the displays that might be described as "flaming balls", but I'd still like to know if there's a specific term in pyrotechnics that refers to this.

  8. Joe said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 9:51 am

    It looks like "flaming balls" and "reports" are terms of art in the fireworks industry . Definitely nerdview since it's leaked into general purpose usage. But definitely not a translation error.

  9. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 10:15 am


    Thank you very much for the "Glossary of Fireworks Terms", but I was so disappointed not to find "flaming balls" there.

  10. Bill Benzon said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 10:26 am

    It's not the name of an entry, Victor, but it shows up in a number of the definitions, along with "flaming stars", "flammable objects", and "flammable debris".

    Mark: Actually, that's not a mural, it's a dirtied side from a box.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 10:52 am

    Thanks, Bill Benzon. I'm both relieved and grateful. For a moment there I was starting to think that it might be a Chinglish translation of something like huǒqiú 火球 ("fireball"), but I am convinced now that it is not.

    It's also reassuring that, to the extent that it is visible, the rest of the English on the label is passable. Even if the fireworks were made in another country, it seems as though a native speaker checked the English.

  12. Margaret Wilson said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 11:55 am

    According to my sister, a licensed pyrotechnician, it is not nerdview. She says:

    "That looks like something you can buy in South Carolina or Nevada — for public consumption. It does shoot flaming balls (not a technical term) and the 'reports' are just bangs. I would say not nerdview. Most fireworks are made in China, and the wording on the labels, written for English speakers, has remained pretty much the same for many decades. (Report isn't a word we use in big fireworks land — we talk about 'salutes,' and don't use that term when talking to the general public without explanation.) To sum up: charming bad translation. You should see some of the names they give their product. Our favorite way back when was 'monkeys violate the heaven palace.' "

  13. SlideSF said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 12:31 pm

    As a kid living overseas and not restricted by American fireworks laws, I was pretty excited about all the pyrotechnics available to me. I had to try them all, but I really didn't know much about them. I was intrigued by one variety labeled "double voice". Erroneously I assumed it meant twice as loud as a normal firecracker. It was only after lighting it and watching it shoot a flaming ball at a mailman across the street and give a second "report" about two feet from his head that I realized the true meaning of "double voice". Now I know to assume the worst when reading descriptions of fireworks.

  14. Gregory Kusnick said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 1:21 pm

    This may be standard fireworks jargon, but I'm not convinced it deserves to be called nerdview when it appears on a site called "Marv's Fireworks". The essence of nerdview, if I've understood it correctly, is that it assumes an insider's viewpoint that the intended audience cannot be expected to share. But surely the intended audience of fireworks descriptors is fireworks aficionados, who presumably can be expected to know the jargon.

  15. Ari Corcoran said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 2:17 pm

    But we mustn't forget Noel Coward's contribution:

    "Kinsey with a deafening report does it"

  16. Bill Benzon said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 2:23 pm

    @Ari Corcoran

    The world ends, not with a report, but a whimper?

  17. Joe said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 3:50 pm

    @Gregory Kusnick: The label is intended for general audiences not fireworks aficionados. Aficionados never ever handle roman candles by following the safety directives such as "Place upright on level ground" or "Do not hold in hand".

  18. Jeff Johnson said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 4:33 pm

    There is a very good reason for such warnings, although they may not be able to save people who aren't readers…

  19. Bill Benzon said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 4:50 pm

    More context:

  20. JS said,

    August 9, 2016 @ 11:18 pm

    “Monkeys violate the heaven palace"? :D This is clearly a translation of the usual name of a well-known episode from the 16th century Chinese novel Xi you ji 西遊記 (Journey to the West), "Sun Wukong da nao tian gong" 孙悟空大闹天宫 ("Monkey King [i.e., Sun Wukong] Raises Cain in the Heavenly Palace.") Talk about lost in translation…

    But really, there's nothing the least bit translate-y about these instructions, whether or not the product was manufactured in China — it probably matters because legal liability & stuff.

  21. Lisa Wilson said,

    August 10, 2016 @ 2:30 am

    JS–thanks for this–how great to learn the origin of those violating monkeys! My other favorite was "clustering bees" but that's pretty straightforward. ;-)

  22. Rodger C said,

    August 10, 2016 @ 6:48 am

    @JS: When I teach that episode, I always call it "Monkey goes to heaven and raises hell."

  23. Robot Therapist said,

    August 10, 2016 @ 8:09 am

    I like "get away". Fireworks here always used to say "retire" to a safe distance.

  24. Margaret Wilson said,

    August 10, 2016 @ 11:11 am

    Putting it all together, it sounds like a case of bad translation that has become accepted in the English-speaking small fireworks world, due to sheer repetition.

  25. Brett said,

    August 11, 2016 @ 7:07 am

    @Robot Therapist: That's very standard English phrasing for a firework. It's recognizable enough that it use used as a joke on a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. Mike (or one of the bots) described Roger Corman's directorial approach as "Light and get away."

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