Doornail, Dead as a

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2 comments on this post.
  1. Dan Schwartz:

    Dickens discussed the matter in the first chapter of “A Christmas Carol”:

    Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

    Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

    It doesn’t change anything you said, but it’s what comes to my mind when I think of the phrase, and I was a little surprised you didn’t mention it.

  2. Jim Feldman:

    I toured Sterling Castle in England a few years ago and they illustrated the expression with a door spiked together as you describe with the nails clinched on the inside. Also, once a nail is bent like that it is dead in the sense that it cannot be reused even if the door is dissembled.

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