fly on the wall
fly on the wall
- to see or listen to something without being noticed.
- to secretly hear or see something.
- fly on the wall can also mean bystander, spectator, listener-in, or looker-on.
The idiom is used to express someone’s desire to be an unnoticeable observer privy to a conversation or scenario without being seen or heard. We might say this if we’re curious about what people are saying when they think they’re alone.
- Even though Janice was not invited to the wedding, she decided to be a fly on the wall.
- Oliver acts like a fly on the wall whenever he visits my home.
- Ann likes to be a fly on the wall whenever her parents have an argument.
- I acted like a fly on the wall, and I got to know everything my family had prepared for my surprise birthday.
- They didn’t want intruders in the room, so they chased her away; therefore, her trick of being a fly on the wall couldn’t work.
- If I could be a fly on the wall in that emergency meeting, I could get some valuable information.
- As a fly on the wall, he heard all their secrets.
- I’d love to be a fly on the wall during Mr. David’s wedding.
The idiomatic expression “a fly on the wall” originated in the United States of America in the early 1900s. The first printed record of the phrase appeared in The Oakland Tribune‘s February 1921 issue. The snippet from the article reads:
“I’d just love to be a fly on the wall when the right man comes along.”
“Fly on the wall documentaries,” which gained popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, are another example of observational nonfiction movies to which the expression has been applied. It usually means that the activity is being captured while the camera is kept as unobtrusive as possible so that the subjects will behave naturally. Participants frequently grow acclimated to the camera’s presence to the point where they finally act as though they are not being videotaped, even when it is clearly visible.