To “catch lightening in a bottle” means to capture something powerful and elusive and then be able to hold it and show it to the world. It can also be defined as accomplishing a nearly impossible task, or a moment of creative brilliance,
This American idiom originated in the 1800s, very likely as a reference to Benjamin Franklin’s electricity experiment, in which Franklin flew a kite in a thunderstorm, hoping that lightning would strike it so that he might collect electricity in a Leyden jar. This source hasn’t been confirmed, but it certainly seems apt.
Another theory is that Leo Durocher (a manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers) coined it, because he had an inventive way with words, like Yogi Berra, and because of the following examples found in print.
From the Washington Post of November 8, 2004: “‘That’s how hard it is to win on the road,’ Cardinals first-year coach Dennis Green said. ‘You hope to have good fortune smile on you and catch lightning in a bottle, and today that happened for us.’”
A report in the Nevada State Journal for October 8, 1941 said: “The Yanks were the dominant team throughout, outhitting, outfielding, outpitching and outmaneuvering the Dodgers. Brooklyn was not outgamed but the Dodgers, to use Lippy Leo Durocher’s favorite expression, went out to try to catch lightning in a bottle.”
Leo Durocher is also credited with the saying, “nice guys finish last.”
“Catching lightning in a bottle” strikes me as a good description for the way I wake up and remember I was dreaming but, no matter how I try, I can’t remember what the dream was about. That first morning shot of caffeine doesn’t help, either.