Victor is my hero.
In an email discussion with my French friend, Victor, I used the phrase "dumb as a doornail". Victor, being French and relatively new to the stupid things Americans say, did not understand what 'dumb as a doornail' meant, or what a 'doornail' was.
I think he figured it out.
From: Victor [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, March 29, 2006 1:49 PM
To: Christy (CM)
Subject: RE: Geek Humour
After a bit of research, I think "dumb as a doornail" is a malapropism. The expression actually is "dead as a doornail." But I've heard "dumb as a doorknob," so you're not that far off from correct cliché usage. Dead as a doornail is an oldie. Even William Shakespeare used it a couple of times, as did Charles Dickens. Experts disagree on why doornails would be described as dead, though the alliteration is very nice.
The leading theory is that the doornail in question in this phrase, which can be traced all the way back to 1350, was a small metal plate nailed on a door that visitors pounded with the knockers attached to it when announcing their arrival. This poor nail would have had its life bashed out of it by visitors and their repeated rapping. Life (and any kind of intelligence) would eventually be pounded out of the 'nail' in that way. Although one might wonder why these doornails would be regarded as any 'deader' than say, coffin nails is a mystery. I guess this particular nail was clearly very unresponsive and dead to the constant assault, hence the saying.
I'm pretty sure 'malapropism' is a French word.
He also didn't know what a 'chubby' was. We are all hoping he uses it inappropriately at the workplace.