Here’s part two in a new video series from BBC Learning English and The Open University called ‘Shakespeare Speaks’. The series celebrates Shakespeare’s use of language with light-hearted video clips that imagine the inspiration for Shakespearean phrases that are still in use today.
In today’s video the origin of Shakespeare’s phrase “as dead as a doornail” is explored. Here Thomas Swann gets a shock… luckily, it’s just a line from a play!
The phrase as dead as a doornail was in common use in Shakespeare’s day. It means the same today as it did back then: Dead. Very dead. Totally dead.
Old Marley was as as dead as a doornail. (Charles Dickens)
These days we can use as dead as a doornail for electrical gadgets that aren’t working.
Oh no – I forgot to charge my phone. It’s as dead as a doornail.