I know this device was invented in America and named a "flashlight" because it originally flashed only once. I was wondering if anyone knew when and why we Brits decided to call it a torch, when that word was already in use for a burning stick.
All I can find on the WWW is sites that explain that there IS a difference, not WHY there is one or WHEN it happened.

Any of you scholars know? I'm not starting a flame war over which is correct, just interested in the history.
TIA,
- Steve
I know this device was invented in America and named a "flashlight" because it originally flashed only once. I was ... Any of you scholars know? I'm not starting a flame war over which is correct, just interested in the history.

It isn't a matter of knowing the why or wherefore, as far as I am concerned. It doesn't deal with just a single "flash" when the button is pushed. A flash light can be directed, or flashed, at any object within its power to illuminate. If you are standing in the dark and you say something, I can move the light to find where your voice is coming from. I "flash" the light in your face and you blink. You have been flashed. If I rudely keep the light on your face, you have some difficulty concentrating on anything around you. You are in my power. It hurts, doesn't it? to have a bright light "thrown" into your eyes.

If I want to read the expression on your face, rather than your protective hands trying to bat the light out of your eyes, I move the light so it is not burning directly into your face. Then, you may be able to answer my questions. You may be able to think. And you still will probably not be able to see who is your interrogator.

Beware!
I know this device was invented in America and named a "flashlight" because it originally flashed only once. I was ... scholars know? I'm not starting a flame war over which is correct, just interested in the history. TIA, - Steve

What was wrong with the old word lantern?
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I know this device was invented in America and named a "flashlight"

I see Wiki names Joshua Cowan as the inventor in the late 1890s. But OED has a quote from 'English Mechanic' from 1875 talking of a "Frictional *electric torch"
because it originally flashed only once. I was wondering if anyone knew when and why we Brits decided to call ... Any of you scholars know? I'm not starting a flame war over which is correct, just interested in the history.

It seems the earliest BrE usage for such a device was 'electric torch' and in time the 'electric' bit got dropped because the shorter term was still comprehensible.

John Dean
Oxford