Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Michael, Oct 21, 2012.

  1. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

    Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out

    I was wondering where this phrase came from? I was thinking like those swinging salon French style doors. Which makes the most sense (given the drinking aspect). But then I was thinking of the old style suicide-doors on old Chrysler sedan.

    Anyone have any ideas?
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  3. seagypsy Banned Banned

    I think it means not to hesitate as you leave. Think about it, if the place as a swinging door, the only way it can hit you on the way out is if you stop just outside the door for some reason, like to rethink what you are doing. I think they mean to leave quickly and don't give it a second thought, just go and go fast.
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  5. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

    In the old West their were double swinging doors on bars that , if you were intoxicated, would hit you if you didn't go all of the way out past them for they would swing back and forth hitting those who would just take to long getting out of their way.
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  7. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

    So? Is this said to mean... just to get the hell out of here (as in, you're not wanted here). Or is it taken to mean, leave and don't come back?

    I've always thought this expression was meant to say something like 'Go ahead an leave, you're leaving really isn't a matter of my concern'. Sort of like a kid saying: Fine then! I'll just leave! And you say: Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out. Which I guess does connect with the 'not to hesitate as you leave' but is said in a way that means I don't give a shit if you do hurry up and leave AKA I don't care if you leave.

    Then my father was saying something about the suicide doors (reverse hinge), and how he wondered if that expression was for people to quickly exit the vehicle or they'd be hit by the door as it drove away. But, I said no, I think it's the swinging doors on a saloon. And I thought it meant as I said: Someone is threatening to leave (take their business elsewhere) and the owner is calling their bluff.
  8. rpenner Fully Wired Registered Senior Member

    Exactly. It works both for family and for business relations which are either very casual or very strained.
    A: (I want more attention.) "I'm leaving!"
    B: (I don't care because giving A more attention distracts from other important things.) "Fine. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out." (There is no need to hesitate because I won't come running after you trying to stop you from leaving.)
    A: (Oh no! Do I stay? Do I go? Why won't he love me? Am I not a good friend? Maybe I should apologize for the many times I have taken B for granted.) "uh..."
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2012
  9. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    I think he meant to say, let’er "B".
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    This classic retort is listed in all the dictionaries of English slang. A consensus of the various definitions:
    • You say this to someone who has already said that they are leaving. "I can't stand the way you treat me here. I'm going to go live somewhere else."
    • The speaker pauses, waiting for you to say, "Don't go. I'm sorry. We can work this out."
    • Instead, you tell them that you're not going to change your mind and they are welcome--nay, encouraged--to follow through on the threat.
    • "Don't let the door hit you on the way out," is a way of expressing your nonchalance, meaning, "Sure, go ahead. Oh, and by the way, please be careful. That door closes quickly and I don't want it to smack you. So you'd better make haste and stop lingering."
    • The reason for the warning is that spring-loaded doors were once much more popular than they are today, even in homes. Being hit by a flimsy swinging half-door in a bar after drinking is one thing, but a full-length, full-width interior door in a house is much heavier and might flatten a sober person.
    • Adding "ass" or "butt" is just a way of modernizing an old saying to conform to today's much coarser style of vernacular American English.
  11. Michael 歌舞伎 Valued Senior Member

    I've seen spring loaded screen doors (which actually make good sense if you have kids running in and out of the house). But a full on solid wood door?!?! Why on Earth would you spring load THAT???
  12. Neverfly Banned Banned

    Jehovah Witnesses.
    Kirby salesman.

    There are many great reasons.
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Frankly I've only seen springs on interior doors, which are much less massive. One of those would only knock you down, not cause a concussion.
  14. Read-Only Valued Senior Member

    It's hard to imagine how long this went on for such a simple, practically self-explanatory expression. Although much of what's been said is accurate, thee whole thing can be summed up like this: It's identical to saying, with a casual shrug, to someone holding a gun to their head, "Go ahead, I don't care."
  15. MacGyver1968 Fixin' Shit that Ain't Broke Valued Senior Member

    It's my standard to reply to ANY "goodbye" thread.
  16. mcorazao Registered Member

    Maybe I'm old but I happened to stumble across this thread and was surprised nobody could answer this completely. The original phrase, which has been simplified a little over time is

    Don't let the screen door hit you in the ass on your way out.​

    There are three basic things you have to understand for that to make sense:
    • It used to be common (70s and 80s) for people to use screen doors on their front doors (though more in the lower- and middle-middle class range).
    • Screen doors are usually spring loaded meaning that, if you are not careful, they can hit you while you are walking through them.
    • In traditional U.S. culture, it is polite when a guest is leaving, to walk them to the door, hold the door for them, and close it for them as they leave. In polite settings it could be considered an insult to not do so.

    So in this expression the speaker is intentionally pointing out that he/she does not intend to extend the courtesy of walking the guest to the door. In other words, "It's time for you to go and I don't respect you enough to walk you out." It's become a comical metaphor for expressing "good riddance", though apparently many people don't even understand what it means anymore.

    Contrary to some of the comments here, it did not originate in the Old West or any such thing. It is a relatively recent expression.
  17. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Screen doors on private houses open out, not in. They won't hit anyone on the ass on the way out.
  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    You're not as old as me. People were saying this when I was a kid in the 1940s and 50s.

    Not that recent. At least 3/4 of a century.

    There are quite a few websites that explain the meaning of this phrase. Most of them refer to spring-loaded doors, some specifically to screen doors. But none of them gives a date of origin. I'm sure it was said orally for a long time before anyone wrote it down.
  19. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    No idea, but "blowing smoke up your ass" used to be a way to attempt to revive the nearly drowned. There are quite interesting kits for this function in existence.
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    It was used in the late 18th century for a variety of medical purposes, including as an elixir. The origin of the procedure seems to be credited to the Native Americans, but this could easily be apocryphal, added to increase believability, since they were the first people to discover tobacco.

    Today, "Don't blow smoke up my ass," is a metaphor for "Don't try to fool me with some outlandish trick."

    The snake oil fad came along later in the 19th century, when modern scientific medicine was in its infancy, so "Don't try to sell me snake oil," has the same meaning and "snake oil salesmen" is still slang for disreputable marketing.
  21. quinnsong Valued Senior Member


    HMMM, I do believe I smell smoke!
  22. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    I think that the phrase means that you will be slamming the door behind the person leaving.
  23. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    Wouldn't that be "don't let me hit you in the ass with the door on the way out"?

    I admit freely that I have conducted no trials in this respect.

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