knell » nail

Chiefly in:   death nail

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • Grasso said he thought Brexit would be the “death nail” for equities, but the market didn’t play out that way. (CNBC, Mar. 29, 2017)
  • Bernie Sanders’ single-payer plan is a ‘death nail’ for baby boomers. (Fox Business, Aug. 16, 2017)
  • DACA is the death nail for anti Trump GOP. (The Kevin Fox Show, Sep. 6, 2017)
  • Had the DNC mobilized voter registration across college campuses, it would have been a death nail to Hillary securing the nomination. (Ronda Lee, Huffington Post, Sep. 14, 2017)
  • Similarly, I believe that the digital revolution and the computer is going to unleash more aspects of e-government, which will be the death nail to politicians. (, Sep. 18, 2017)
  • “I do not want any of you to view this as the death-nail for this idea,” Austin said. (Wichita State Sunflower, Oct. 25, 2017)

Analyzed or reported by:

Paul Brians observes that “‘death nail’ is a result of confusing two expressions with similar meanings,” i.e. death knell and (the last) nail in the coffin. Indeed, nail in the coffin appears to be a heavy influence on death nail, and in some cases the influence is so strong that we could call it an idiom blend. Consider the form “the (last/final) death nail in (someone’s) coffin”:

I would argue that the final death nail in RIM’s coffin was the aggressive pursuit of enterprise customers by Apple. (CIO, Aug. 28, 2017)

…or, more obliquely, “the death nail in (something)”:

And the Braves can thank him for not allowing Freeman’s injury to be the death nail in their season. (Macon Telegraph, June 20, 2017)

In such cases, the “pealing of the bell” sense of death knell has been lost entirely.

| link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2017/10/27 |

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