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In the novel Thank You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse, Bertie was telling Jeeves that he saw J. Washburn Stoker and his daughter Pauline along with Sir Roderick Glossop. To this Jeeves asked him if he entered into conversation with them but Bertie replies

Who, me? No, Jeeves. I was out of the room like a streak.

What does “I was out of the room like a streak” mean?

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    I’m voting to close this question because it belongs on English Language Learners. There's nothing specifically literary about the usage here. It's a straightforward use of the meaning of that idiom.
    – verbose
    Feb 14 at 2:16
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There is a common, though possibly dated idiom 'like a streak of lightning' which shares precisely the meaning of 'like a streak', and exists in subtle variations 'like a blue streak of lightning', like a greased streak of lightning' or 'like a streak of greased lightning'. Indeed the Oxford Dictionary of Idioms gives the idiom as:

like a streak (of lightning) very fast. informal

By way of further backing up that Wodehouse himself used the phrase as a shortened version of the full idiom, we can see that he used used the term 'like a streak of lightning' in much the same way in his earlier work 'The Man Who Disliked Cats' which predates Thank You Jeeves by some 22 years.

Nor did he move, till I ’ad seized the parrot and replaced him in the cage, when he shot upstairs like a streak of lightning. By sheer force of character that excellent bird ’ad won the bloodless victory. I drink to ’im!”

and later in Ring for Jeeves, published almost 20 years after Thank You Jeeves:

I’ve watched the animal run with my own eyes, and it’s like a streak of lightning. All you see is a sort of brown blur.

Therefore the full understanding of the term is that he moved not only fast, but as fast as lightning.

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"Like a streak" is an idiom, as @verbose says in the comments. Quoting the Collins Dictionary:

US
    Informal
    at high speed; swiftly

As the dictionary indicates, this is an American turn of phrase. It simply means "at a high speed". So "I was out of the room like a streak" means "I left the room quickly", which makes sense here as an explanation of why Bertie didn't converse with the group. If someone left quickly they wouldn't be able to talk with those who were left.

As for why "like a streak" means "at a high speed", this is probably a reference to how high-speed movement, such as a fast-moving airplane or a quick swimmer, leaves thin lines in its wake. These lines could be called "streaks", and as they are associated with fast movement, "like a streak" means "at a high speed".

Or, see the streaks in this image (courtesy Comic Book FX)

a comic panel showing a woman in a white coat running, with streaking lines behind her and "WHIZZZZ" as an onomatopoeia

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  • It's also an artistic convention to draw streaks after moving things or people to indicate they are moving quickly.
    – Mary
    Apr 25 at 3:24
  • Maybe i's just short for "like a streak of lightning"?
    – user14111
    Apr 25 at 7:08
  • I’ve reluctantly downvoted this as incorrect or not providing sufficient information to be useful. From many people I’d have left it be, but your history of posting well researched and supported answers means your name on an answer suggests a reliability which is absent here. The probable reference isn’t backed up and the plausibility is undermined by your examples . The idiom is used from mid 1800s well before planes with contrails and when champion swimmers did around 3mph. First use of motion lines is hard to pin down, but comics were not common in the 1850s.
    – Spagirl
    May 14 at 12:42
  • I’d love for you to back up the answer and make me eat my words, and putting down why I’ve downvoted makes me realise that I need to improve my own answer., which I’ll try and get to in the next day or two.
    – Spagirl
    May 14 at 12:42

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