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Dead Ringer in the archives

Posted by Word Camel on November 19, 2002

In Reply to: Dead Ringers posted by mm on November 19, 2002

: I don't know if this is at all true - but the origin I had heard for dead ringer - which makes intuitive sense - is that it comes from some time ago, when it was not possible to establish that a person had died with as much certainly as now. Consequently people who were alive were occasionally buried - which must have been a horrific prospect. Some people had a bell installed at the graveside, which could be pulled from within the coffin should the occupant awaken.

: The phrase "He's a dead ringer for you." makes a lot of sense in that context.

: Does anybody know if this is a complete myth? It's such a lovely explanation that I would love it to be true.

: Thanks.

I'm enclosing a link to a previous discussion of "dead ringer". We managed to establish that coffin bells did indeed exist. There are alternative explanations for the phrase though, that are well worth looking into.