The weakest explosive volcanic eruptions globally, Strombolian explosions and Hawaiian fountaining, are also the most common. Yet, despite over a hundred years of observations, no classifications have offered a convincing, quantitative way of demarcating these two styles. New observations show that the two styles are distinct in their eruptive timescale, with the duration of Hawaiian fountaining exceeding Strombolian explosions by about 300 to 10,000 seconds. This reflects the underlying process of whether shallow-exsolved gas remains trapped in the erupting magma or whether it is decoupled from it. We propose here a classification scheme based on the duration of events (brief explosions versus prolonged fountains) with a cutoff at 300 seconds that separates transient Strombolian explosions from sustained Hawaiian fountains.