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Burn the water vs Set the Thames on fire

burn the water—(Fishermen) spear salmon by torchlight:

  • Water-bailiffs are sent up the rivers at certain times to prevent “burning the water.”

Note: The expression does not correlate in meaning with the phrase boil the ocean—try smth. way too ambitious that cannot reasonably be completed: Don’t attempt to boil the ocean.

  • If your initial concept is so grandiose that you can’t deliver, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

set the Thames on fire—(usually negat.) do smth. remarkable and cause a sensation (also: set the world on fire):

  • When Sir Gregory declared that Mr. Neverbend would never set the Thames on fire, he meant to express his opinion that that gentleman was a fool.