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Knock them dead or knock ’em dead

  • The idiom knock them dead or knock ’em dead is considered to be of American origin. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase knock them dead or knock ’em dead, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    Knock them dead or knock ’em dead is an encouragement to do something well, to project an impressive appearance, to enjoy success. The term knock them dead is often abbreviated to knock ’em dead, in a humorous manner. The phrase came into use in the 1890s in American vaudeville. Vaudeville is a type of live variety entertainment that was popular until the advent of the motion picture. Originally, the term knock them dead or knock ’em dead was used to wish a performer luck. It seems that the relationship between a performer and his audience is often seen as adversarial or combative, hence the use of terms such as knock them dead or knock ’em dead, slay them, or kill them, all referring to the audience. Phrases related to the idiom are knocks them dead, knocked them dead, knocking them dead.

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    Examples

    WWE’s announcement also comes after the two sides have spent months trading both subliminal and overt disses, from Cody fancying himself as an “Attitude Killer;” to Triple H calling AEW a pissant company; to Jon Moxley’s viral scorched-earth interview against WWE; to Seth Rollins vowing to “knock them dead;” to The Elite invading Raw that one time in Ontario which resulted in legal threats from WWE. (Forbes Magazine)

    Yes, your sugar skull cookies and cookie haunted mansion may impress your guests, but your severed toes in a blanket (AKA pigs in a blanket) will knock them dead. (Woman’s Day Magazine)

    So get ready to drop everything, kick up your heels and experience a knock ’em dead season that’s practically perfect in every way. (Broadway World)


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