Posted by Jeff on July 06, 2005
"As Dead as a Doornail"
This expression has no definition in your archive. I understand it to mean "irrevokeably dead".
Also, you mention that its derivation is from Shakespear. However, did he coin the phrase or just use it in his writing?
I had heard that the phrase comes from 'old times' when houses were built using hand-forged nails, a very labour intensive process. When buildings were demolished, it was common practice to burn the nails out of the old timbers for later re-use. However, nails that were used in doorframes and doors themselves were useless, because thier ends were bent over (clinched) after they were driven to prevent them pulling out with the repeated abuse doors and frames received.
Therefore, and doornail was 'dead' beyond use.