There was a strange notation in our appointment schedule the other day.  Granted, we get some strange notations every day, but this one was particularly interesting.  It simply said, “Dog rolled in something very dead.”

Hhhmmm.  Very dead.  As opposed to what?  Only slightly dead?  Dead is one of those conditions I typically regard as a black or white matter. Either something is dead or it is not.  Does very dead make it more dead?  It’s kind of like being a little pregnant.  I could only surmise that “very dead” was somehow an indicator of the degree of odor associated with the act of the dog rolling in the offensive material.

This got me thinking, which is always a scary undertaking.  (Did I really just write “undertaking” in a blog on death?)  Clearly my mind should not be allowed to wander loose by itself.

For example, where did the phrase, “dead as a door nail” come from?  How dead are door nails, anyway?  Is being as dead as a door nail worse than just being merely dead?   Well, it turns out “dead as a door nail” means unequivocally deceased—which all this time I thought was the simple definition of “dead.”  I never knew there were varying degrees of being dead.  The expression goes back to poems in the 1300’s, and was also used by William Shakespeare and in Charles Dickens’  A Christmas Carol in 1843. It is thought that the phrase “dead as a door nail” comes from the manner of securing door nails that were hammered into a door by clenching them. Clenching is the practice of bending over the protruding end of the nail and hammering it into the wood. When a nail has been clenched, it has been dead nailed, and is not easily resurrected to use again.  Wasn’t that was a fascinating bit of trivia?

It’s incredible how many idioms there are for the word “dead”.  Dead ringer, dead tired, dead center, dead end, dead giveaway, dead serious, knock ‘em dead, dead weight, dead of night, stop dead in your tracks, play dead, and beat a dead horse are just a few that come to mind.  But I’ve never heard the expression, “very dead.”

There is, of course, the question of why dogs choose to roll in dead, smelly things.  Many believe it’s instinctual behavior, hearkening back to the days when dogs’ wild ancestors would mask their scent to help them sneak up on their prey. One would think, however, with their keen sense of smell, rolling in foul smelling substances would be as offensive to dogs as it is to their owners.  This just goes to show that what is perceived as repulsive by one individual can be perceived as a fragrant aroma to another.  Kind of like those people who apparently bathe in their body sprays which give everyone around them a headache.

Knowing how unpleasant it is to have your dog roll in dead things, particularly when they want to climb all over you and lick your face afterwards, if my dogs are ever dead set to do it again, I’m going to kill them dead!  (Was that last sentence a bit of overkill?)