Have you ever used the phrase, dead as a doornail or doorknob to indicate something or some living being? I hope you know about being dead or semi-dead or living a life that can reciprocate this feeling. Is dead as a doornail simile or metaphor? Let’s read the article and get all the answers related to dead as a doornail or doorknob.
1. Meaning of the Phrase
Literary devices that you use in your everyday lives make references interesting and even funny. The phrase is mostly a figurative sense and refers to an immovable object. It may not imply that the person who is referred to with the phrase is actually dead. For example, after working for twelve hours continuously, a person may be lying down and can be called to be as dead as a doornail. The phrase also indicates something that cannot be used again. (See What does it feel like to die?)
2. Original Context of Dead as a Doornail or Doorknob
Centuries back, iron nails were made by hand like almost every other item. These nails were difficult to craft and hence were quite valuable. Because of this, people would take away these nails and reuse them. In order to prevent that and to make doors steady and strong, after hammering a nail through the wood, carpenters would flatten its sharp end into the door. This technique was called clinching. So the nail was considered to be dead as it cannot be put to any other use after this. The nail was hammered so many times on its head that it might have been dead. (Also read Pipe Dream Definition Origin)
3. Is Dead as a Doornail Simile or Metaphor?
As time passed, the term doornail was growing less and less familiar. Is dead as a doornail simile or metaphor? Yes, this phrase is a simile. Hence, to indicate that something that is irrevocably dead, obviously dead or dead for sure. Other variants were also used to substitute the word. The variants of this simile are, as dead as a doorknob, as dead as a dodo, as dead as a herring, as dead as a rock, as dead as a graveyard, etc. Such linguistic shits lead to the modification of various terms. (Also read Different Words for Breasts)
4. Usage of the Phrase in the Literature
The phrase originated in the 1300s in medieval English time and was also used in other poems during that period. (Also read Examples of Kiss Me Under The Mistletoe Quotes)
- The earliest usage of the simile is found in a work called Piers Plowman by William Langland, but experts say that the phrase may not have been his innovation.
- In the 1500s, William Shakespeare uses the phrase in his play Henry IV. In his acclaimed story A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens popularizes it.
- In the late 2000s, a book named Dead as a doornail was written as a part of the Southern Vampire Mysteries series by Charlaine Harris. Must read the article on Use of Fingers Crossed in a Sentence.
5. Is this Phrase still in Use?
As language drifts and changes, newer words are added. Better similes and metaphors are invented. Dead as a doornail is used with a variety of variations in respect to the current word usages. The original term has been repeatedly used and misused and has become a literary cliché. The word is advised to be avoided, especially by writers if they would like to use fresh sentences. (See What does Pepega mean?)
Dead as a doornail or doorknob should be used in conversations where you need to refer to someone or something that is not alive, or someone who is so tired that they don’t feel alive. This metaphor is not so widely used these days but can be heard amongst readers and writers, so are familiar with various. (See Theory of Eternity of Life)