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Nov 19 2013   2:22PM GMT

Nail it vs. hit it on the head vs. nail it on the head

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?

interrobang The Agile Manifesto _______________: Collaboration should be more important than contract negotiation.
a. nailed it
b. hit the nail on the head
c. hit the nose on the head
d. nailed it on the head

Answer: a or b.

Explanation:

You may be surprised, as I was, to learn that these are all pretty commonly used expressions.

Here’s a quick Google poll:

Nailed it: 2,950,000 hits

Hit the nail on the head: 51,300,000 hits

Hit the nose on the head: 59,200 hits

Nailed it on the head: 4,970,000 hits

To nail something  and to hit the nail on the head both mean to get something exactly right or achieve a goal. “Nail it on the head” is a mixed metaphor (sometimes known as a malaphor). It gets worse, too. While I was checking out online use, I kept finding “hit the nose on the head,” which is not a saying I’d ever encountered before.

Here’s what the Malaphor King has to say about hit the nose on the head:

It is a blend of “hit it on the nose” and “hit the nail on the head”, both phrases meaning getting something exactly right.  I suspect the confusion here is also prompted by two words that are both body parts and four letter words.   It also could be from watching too many Three Stooges comedies.

I guess so. What it makes me think of is pin the tail on the donkey. But I should stop before I add more malapropisms to the mix.

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