Yesterday’s (September8) New York Times carried an article titled ‘Setting Their Hair on Fire’ which was written by economist, Paul Krugman. It is followed by the following sentence:
“First things first: I was favorably surprised by the new Obama jobs plan, which is significantly bolder and better than I expected. It’s not nearly as bold as the plan I’d want in an ideal world. But if it actually became law, it would probably make a significant dent in unemployment.”
As ‘Set one’s hair on fire’ was unfamiliar expression to me, I searched on Google and found the following post on www.phrases. org:
HAIR ON FIRE - ".That odd phrase - believed to have originated among Navy aviators, intended to convey a sense of hair-raising urgency - quickly became the phrase of the day as this week's hearings began before the commission investigating events that led to 9/11...(Donald) Rumsfeld used it, saying such alarm wasn't uncommon: '...
From the above definition, I understand ‘Set one’s hair on fire’ means ‘a matter of emergency.' Am I right? The expression reminds me of Japanese popular saying, ‘焦眉の急 -urgency of scorching your eyebrows,’ to describe the urgent need.
Since Phrase Finder says ‘it’s odd phrase,’ I wonder how commonly ‘Set one’s hair on fire’ is used. Is it easily understood and widely spoken by both British and Americans today?