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Why Exciting Events Are Barnburners

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Why is an exciting event called a barnburner? A real barn on fire can be a spectacular sight, with so many combustible materials inside. Metaphorically, then, a barnburner is a “humdinger” or a “doozy.” There’s also a political sense of barnburner, referring to certain politicians and activists. A radical wing of the Democratic Party in the 1930s and 1940s was known as the Barnburners, a spinoff of a faction called the Locofocos, a reference to a wooden match with a name that likely derives from loco suggesting “speed” and the Italian word for “fire,” fuoco. This is part of a complete episode.

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