nail in one's coffin, drive/put a

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nail in one's coffin, drive/put a

Perform some destructive (or self-destructive) act. The term first appeared in print in Peter Pindar’s (John Wolcot’s) Ode no. 15 (1789): “Care to our coffin adds a nail.” It was repeated over the years, and in the early twentieth century was taken up by the Anti-Cigarette League, which announced that every cigarette smoked was a nail in one’s coffin, giving rise to the colloquial name coffin nail for a cigarette. “Have you a coffin nail?” wrote O. Henry (The Higher Abdication, 1907).
See also: drive, nail, put