Eggcorn Forum

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Chris -- 2015-05-30

#1 2011-01-11 10:47:53

Registered: 2011-01-11
Posts: 1

death nail

Paul Brians’ “Common Errors in English Usage” website lists the error “death nail” instead of “death knell” ( I haven’t read all the hundreds of errors he has listed, but this one struck me as an eggcorn.



#2 2011-01-11 11:45:45

From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2576

Re: death nail

Hi, Literalman. Welcome to the forum.

“Death nail” is one of our earliest discoveries on the forum (still not in the database, though).

Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.



#3 2011-01-11 14:24:27

Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1455

Re: death nail

Also, Mr. Brians contributes eggcorns here from time to time, so his entire body of work has effectively been submitted… no need to mine it for others.



#4 2011-01-11 19:09:33

Dixon Wragg
From: Cotati, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 1246

Re: death nail

Literalman wrote:

Paul Brians’ “Common Errors in English Usage” website lists the error “death nail” instead of “death knell” ( I haven’t read all the hundreds of errors he has listed, but this one struck me as an eggcorn.

I myself hadn’t heard that one before, Literalman (hey, that name makes you sound like a superhero). The meaning connection is probably reinforced by people having heard cigarettes called “coffin nails” or, more generally, harmful things being called “another nail in (his, your, my) coffin”.

And that just now made me wonder if some people might be using the eggcorn “coughin’ (or coughing) nail”. I found one mention of it on this site, here: … hp?id=2676
but it’s one of those which hasn’t made it into the database yet. Then I did a little googlin’ and got about 581 hits for “coughing nail”, but only maybe one in ten of them are the actual eggcorn, e.g. ”...I have the urge to walk out [and] puff a coughing-nail or two” and ”...’coffin nail’ was a cigarette….or coughing nail…usually cheap none filter tip brands…” and “It provided a good issue for attacking those tabacco growing, snuff dipping, cigar chomping, coughing nail smoking Southern Baptists.”

Interestingly, my scan of the first 3 pages of google hits turned up one instance of “coughing nails” which has nothing to do with cigarettes: ”...he’s got to be harder than a coughing nail…”. I think this is a mis-hearing of the phrase “harder than a coffin nail”, which, I believe, is of British origin.

Googling “coughin’ nail” produced only about 143 hits, but nearly all of these seem to be the cigarette eggcorn (or pun?), e.g. “The initial puffs start the soon-to-be-enslaved sucker down a slope that gets ever-steeper with each coughin’-nail” and “A Rusty Nail served without ice is sometimes called a Straight Up Nail. If someone adds their cigarette butt, it is referred to as a coughin’ nail” and ”...puff on his omnipresent Camel (his ‘coffin nail’/ ‘coughin’ nail’)...” That last one is particularly interesting because the writer gives both spellings, indicating either that he is unsure of which is right or is making a pun.

Anyway, welcome to the Forum, Literalman, and enjoy!



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