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Is there an English word which means a "reverse blink?" By this I mean, having your eyes closed and then opening them for a fraction of a second and then closing them.

This question was inspired by http://what-if.xkcd.com/115/

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    You could call it a "knilb"... – Jim Mack Oct 10 '14 at 0:50
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    Hey! I was gonna ask this! :) – Marthaª Oct 10 '14 at 1:05
  • @Marthaª It looks like I have found a way to get instant rep on a StackExchange site: Wait for relevant question to be asked on xkcd and then ask that question on StackExchange. Instant upvote and commenting privlages. :P – Sudo Bash Oct 11 '14 at 5:45
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You are asking about "peek". That is to look quickly through the eyes, like a game of peek-a-boo. You don't have to use your hands though.

peek (pk) intr.v. peeked, peek·ing, peeks 1. To glance quickly. 2. To look or peer furtively, as from a place of concealment. 3. To be only partially visible, as if peering or emerging from hiding: Tiny crocuses peeked through the snow. n. A brief or furtive look. [Middle English piken, perhaps alteration of Middle Dutch kieken, variant of kken.] The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

If you are standing in the surface of the sun for a nanosecond, a peek would be the best you could do- although I wonder if Randall Munroe was seeking to emphasize how brief this "peek" would need to be. A peek can be several seconds, and as he suggests, even a nanosecond in the interior would be far too long.

To be fair, a nanosecond on the surface would warm you up, but not burn you - but several microseconds might. A peek is probably longer than that - I suspect he is alluding to "the blink of an eye" to underscore the brevity.

What I wonder is if a peek would blind you...

  • To my knowledge peek is more often used to look secretly, not for a very short time. There might be a better/less ambiguous word for the reverse blink. – npst Oct 10 '14 at 13:18
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    Nope - it has both meanings. I agree, my first connotation is to look secretly, but it can mean just a quick glance - such as "I'll drop into that store and take a peek at the prices." Doesn't mean you are trying to hide anything, just that you are going to get out of there before your girlfriend pulls out your wallet. – Affable Geek Oct 10 '14 at 13:56
  • As an aside, lighthouses are said to flash if the light is obscured more than it shines, and occulating is when the signal shines more than it is obscured. – JenSCDC Oct 10 '14 at 14:25

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