idioms, language, fun facts

A doornail really is deader than a regular nail.

"Old Marley was as dead as a doornail."

Charles Dickens' line from "A Christmas Carol" is probably the most famous example of the phrase "dead as a doornail," but it's certainly not the only one. Shakespeare used it in Henry IV Part 2: "Look on me well: I have eat no meat these five days; yet, come thou and thy five men, and if I do not leave you all as dead as a doornail, I pray God I may never eat grass more." An unnamed poet used the idiom for the first time in print in a poem published in 1350, but it's still not uncommon to hear it used today.

"Dead as a doornail" obviously means dead, deceased, definitively not alive. But why a doornail and not just a nail? All nails are dead by their nature of being metal, right? So why even use a nail at all? Why not "dead as a door" or "dead as a rock"? Those are dead, too. What makes a doornail specifically deader than other dead things?

There's a surprisingly interesting answer to that question. As it turns out there really is a good reason for specifying a doornail to convey being really, truly dead.

YouTube creator Malcolm P.L., who mostly makes videos about the history of armor, shared an explanation as well as a demonstration of what a doornail actually is:


So it turns out that a doornail isn't just a nail in a door, but a nail that cannot be removed and reused. Way back when, nails were made by hand and quite valuable. People would salvage and repurpose nails whenever they could. The way doornails were bent and driven into the backside of a door made it virtually impossible for them to be reused as a nail.

So not only are doornails dead simply because they're nails, but because their future potential for any other use is also dead. They are doubly dead, if you will. Extra deceased.

How many other idioms do we commonly use without knowing their full origins? Let the cat out of the bag? The whole nine yards? Spill the beans? Get someone's goat?

Language is so fascinating. Time to do some Googling.


Andrew Garfield with Stephen Colbert.

Andrew Garfield came onto “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” to promote his new movie, “tick, tick… Boom.” What he gave instead was a truly touching story about love and loss, with a refreshing and relatable twist.

The sweet moment comes at the four-minute mark of the interview, where Colbert asked Garfield how playing Broadway composer Jonathan Larson (who died suddenly of a heart issue at the upswing of his creative career) helped him process the unexpected loss of his mother.

Instead of wishing the pain away, Garfield states, “I hope this grief stays with me.”

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Jimmy Fallon #MyFamilyIsWeird.

It’s that time of year again, the holiday season is when we get the pleasure of spending way more time than we’re used to with our families. For those of us who’ve moved away from our immediate families, the holidays are a great time to reacquaint ourselves with old traditions and to realize that some of them may be a little strange.

Every family seems to have its own brand of weirdness. In fact, I wouldn’t trust anyone who says that their family is completely normal.

On November 18, “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon gave everyone a reason to celebrate their unique families by asking them to share their favorite stories under #MyFamilyIsWeird. The responses were everything from odd holiday traditions to family members that may have a screw (or two!) loose.

Here are 17 of the funniest responses.

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