Where does the phrase "to get on like a house on fire" come from? (Meaning "to immediately get on very well with someone", particularly a new acquaintance.)
It's quite common here in the UK, but even as a native speaker it strikes me as bizarre.
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The OED says
orig. U.S. like a house on fire (also afire) : as fast as a house would burn; very rapidly or vigorously. Freq. in to get on like a house on fire : (a) to progress rapidly and successfully; (b) (of two people) to establish quickly and maintain a very good relationship.
I think that's the best answer you're going to get.
From Google Answers:
I think this may be lost in the mists of time. The exact Washington Irvin quote mentioned below by pinkfreud appears below, but I have found an earlier reference from 1741 quoted by Thomas Carlyle.
Title: A history of New York, from the beginning of the world to the end of the Dutch dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker.
Author: Irving, Washington, 1783-1859.
In proportion, therefore, as a nation, a community, or an individual (possessing the inherent quality of greatness) is involved in perils and misfortunes, In proportion does it rise in grandeur - and even when sinking under calamity, makes, like a house on fire, a more glorious display then ever it did in the fairest period of its prosperity?
Title: History of Friedrich the Second, called Frederick the Great
Author: Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881.
Publication Info: New York,: Harper & brothers, 1862-1874.
Quoting Burgermeister Spener on 4th Dec 1741
"On the contrary, the love of your burger subjects - that, if you can kindle it, will go on like a house on fire (Ausbruch eines Feueres), and streams of water won't put it out."