Meaning an identical looking person, the term dead ringer originally referred to a horse that had been substituted for another of similar appearance to defraud the bookies. The verb to ring has long been used by the criminal fraternity to mean to substitute. The most modern example is to ring a car, meaning to steal another car's identity - usually for the purpose of reintroducing a write-off back on the road. Dead is widely used to mean accurate or precise, as in dead centre or dead heat.
A Competing Theory
Scratches found on the inside of coffins suggested that the occupants had erroneously been buried alive. To overcome this, a string would be tied to a finger of the person being buried and attached to a bell on the surface. If the bell rang, the person (who was obviously not dead) could be rescued. Of course, the resurfaced person would be identical to the person buried (it was the same person) and would be known as a dead ringer for the deceased.
Test Your Knowledge of English Proverbs and Idioms
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.
Download a Free Grammar Checker Download Grammarly's app to help with eliminating grammar errors and finding the right words.
(The Grammarly app works with webmail, social media, and texting apps as well as online forms and Microsoft Office documents like Word.)
"Smashing Grammar" (2019) Written by the founder of Grammar Monster, "Smashing Grammar" includes a glossary of grammar essentials (from apostrophes to zeugma) and a chapter on easily confused words (from affect/effect to whether/if). Each entry starts with a simple explanation and basic examples before moving to real-life, entertaining examples. All entries conclude with a section highlighting why the grammar point is relevant for a writer and top-level bullet points summarizing the entry. [More…]
"Grammar for Grown-ups" (2011) Vocational rather than academic, "Grammar for Grown-ups" is packed with real-life examples and keeps you engaged with a wealth of great quotations from Homer the Greek to Homer the Simpson. Straight talking and methodical, Craig Shrives draws on his years compiling Grammar Monster and as an army officer to present a comprehensive but light-hearted and easily digestible grammar reference guide. [More…]