It’s Time to Replace the Expression: “In the Blink of an Eye”

With something that’s 20 times faster.

Imagine driving down the highway five miles per hour, and someone passes you going 100 mph. I don’t think anyone would be using that slower car as an example of a speed demon.

So why do people insist on using the phrase “in the blink of an eye” as the default phrase for something that happens quickly, when there is something that the body does much more quickly?

Any guesses what it might be?

  • Double-clicking your mouse/keypad?
  • Reaching for that last nacho when you see your spouse eyeing it?
  • Changing the radio station when a song by Tiny Tim comes on?

No, no, and no.

The fastest human movement is snapping your fingers.

Scientists at Georgia Tech reveal it takes just seven milliseconds to snap your fingers — more than 20 times quicker than the blink of an eye. That makes it the fastest movement overall in the human body.

If you’re wondering why in the world scientists would even bother studying this? The authors say the findings could lead to better prosthetic hands, and more human-like robots.

The snap of a finger was first depicted by Greek pottery makers around 300BC.

And in homage to the finger snap, I’ll end this post here.

Hopefully, you didn’t feel that it took as long as a blink of an eye to read it…

*top image from AZ Central; second image from StudyFinds

53 thoughts on “It’s Time to Replace the Expression: “In the Blink of an Eye”

  1. Perhaps the saying holds true because by a chronological measurement the snapping of a finger is faster, but to do it, one must consciously raise their arm, position their digits, and then produce the required sound. The actual snap itself is faster, but the preamble to it is longer.

    Also, and I may be completely wrong about this, but assuming there is no injury (trauma, eye lash, finger jabbing) involved, one blinks their eyes at a set rate without conscious effort. It is automatic, like breathing. Blinking rate slows when looking at things like television or monitors, but as a whole, it is fairly set. Some people blink faster or slower at their baseline, but without much effort or thought on the blinkers behalf, your eyes just close and open with no recognizable mental exertion. Maybe that’s why it’s still the fastest thing a human body can do – to blink your eye probably takes slightly longer than the snapping of your fingers, but one is automatic, the other requires conscious effort.

    A child of a about a year and a half is still learning the world around them. They mimic what they see. If Pop-Pop sticks his tongue out, they will try to as well. If he clicks his tongue, they will try to do that and grow infinitely more irritated the longer they fail. If Auntie crosses her eyes at them, they will stare dead in your eyes, scramble up their faces with their tongue hanging out and think proudly “yes. I’ve totally crossed my eyes!” If mommy goes to the back door, puts her fingers to her lips, and whistles like she’s at a ball game to get the dogs to come in, the baby will raise their hands to their face and with endless determination, blow a bucket of spit up their arms. Same is true when learning to snap their fingers.

    Forgetting the mental processes it takes to get your arm in position to snap, what about the years it took you to perfect the action?

    A blink? Babies do it without someone teaching them. The world does it just because they sneeze (and they can’t control that either). You are prepackaged able to blink. There’s no learning curve. You spend your whole life doing it without even a half of a neuron firing to make it happen. It is so fast you don’t know it’s Happening until after it’s done. With everything else, including snapping, it may be measurably faster, but is it really? They don’t start the timer when you first think that you’re going to snap your fingers, just as they can’t start the timer when you haven’t thought anything just to measure a blink.

    Also, as an aside, have you ever noticed that when you are told to blink, by the eye doctor, your blinking skill becomes almost paralyzed? You can blink, obviously, but it takes FOREVER. Perhaps that plays a part too – knowing they were being timed.

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  2. In spite of what research may show, I still like the saying, “In the blink of a an eye” , but am feeling smart with the knowledge you shared. :And now in the blink of an eye or snap of a finger I am going to bed! 🙂

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  3. I think you just gave me an idea for my next blog post for next week. In other words, I won’t finish my post in a blink of an eye because we all know a watched pot never boils.

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  4. Snapping your fingers is already too busy being the analogy for something that is easy. And the blink of an eye holds the position of representing something that happens quickly. Now, I am thinking these two are reversed, but good luck changing anything in colloquial language.

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  5. this may not be true for me, as I can only snap my fingers in some weird way that I not like most other people, using different fingers, therefore I defer to the nacho grabbing measure of time.

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  6. Proof, if it were needed, that some scientific researchers should get a proper job. If this is what they have concluded I wouldn’t trust any prosthetics they developed. A load of what we call ‘cobblers.’

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  7. I always thought that when you snapped your finger a spiced wine or some such drink was supposed to appear and hover in the air close to where you snapped them. It’s never worked that way for me. Am I doing something wrong?

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  8. Okay, I am rather surprised that snapping your fingers is that much quicker than blinking your eye. Your eye is just going with gravity, but snapping your fingers seems like it requires much more mechanical functioning… but so it be… I guess it’s true! lol… funny, Charlotte just learned how to snap her fingers (well the motions of it without quite making the snapping sound yet, watching her do it is like watching a slow-mo movie lol she’s constantly trying to get her fingers to line up properly, it’s so cute) 🤣🥰

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  9. Who knew finger snapping was the fastest? I think we don’t let go of the old sayings we grew up with. I remember saying, “No ticky no laundry.” Terrible. How about “running like a chicken with it’s head cut off.” Now that’s an image I hope to never see. And Tiny Tim, I’m still laughing! Trivia: do you remember his young wife’s name?

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    1. it is finny how some saying stick with you. I vaguely remember Tiny Tim’s wife’s name, but I have to look it up. I also vaguely recall that they were married on TV – I think…

      Miss Vicki, on the Tonight Show…

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