Invisibility is a super power many people have daydreamed about. IGN ranks it as the second best super power – just after the ability to fly – and it is easy to see why this ability is so sought after. It would allow you to find out what people really think about you, or how others act when you are not around. You could effortlessly get out of any hairy situation, get into any place you want for free, or just get some peace of mind whenever you feel like it.
Wishing to be a fly on the wall during a conversation or an interesting situation is not quite the same as full-on invisibility; nevertheless, there are certain similarities: just like being invisible being a fly on the wall would allow you to observe the goings on without the chance of anyone discovering you. Nobody cares about something as insignificant as a fly on the wall. It is not common in everyday conversation to talk about superpowers and wishing to be invisible to spy on other people, but the phrase allows expressing the sentiment to wish to overhear something unobserved without being judged.
Here are some possible example sentences using the phrase:
- ‘I would sell both my kidneys to be a fly on the wall when they tell him he has to concede.’
- ‘Have you heard? She said she will dump him tonight.’ ‘Oh, to be a fly on the wall during that conversation.’
The phrase has become so commonplace that a documentary-style has been named after it.
According to the OED, the earliest instance of the phrase was in Nancy Mitford’s 1949 novel Love in a Cold Climate. Other sources point to a 1921 issue of The Oakland Tribune as the first documented instance of the phrase.
Can you think of conversations or situations in which you would have liked to be a fly on the wall? Share with us in the comment section!