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Be a bomb vs Be the bomb

be a bomb—(coll.) be a failure or fiasco:

  • Unfortunately, the film was a bomb and gained a reputation as being the only film on which Mr. Corman lost money.

be the bomb—(U.S. sl., sometimes spelled “be da bomb”) be very successful; be received enthusiastically:

  • The show was the “bomb” back in the day when it first aired.

Note: The expression does not correlate in meaning with the phrase make a bomb—(sl.) make or earn a great deal of money:

  • Many of them are too honest to do any [drug] trafficking but the ones that do make a bomb.