I had another of my common hmmm, I wonder why… moments while writing yesterday’s post, specifically when mentioning the meaning of dead ringer. I understand that dead meant precise in that context, but I wondered why we use it with that meaning?
It’s quite common when you think about it: dead right (thanks), dead centre, dead stop, dead aim etc. But what does this have to do with death?
No-one seems to be as interested in this question as I am, because I can’t find anyone who’s written about it, but I think it’s because if there’s one thing death is, it’s certain. It comes to us all, eventually. And it’s complete and utter: once you’re dead, that’s it for every aspect of your life.
And so we took these concepts of certainty/exactitude and completeness, and used dead as an intensifying adverb or adjective to express these ideas. I think dead also became popular in this regard because it grabs your attention much more than, say, taxes right!
It’s a bit morbid if you think about it, sure, but then we’re so used to using the word in this way that we don’t really notice it, do we?