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Does anybody have any idea why "doors" in the idiom "behind closed doors" is "in the plural"? I have seen "behind bars" and the plural form "bars" makes sense, but I wonder why it should be "doors" not "door". Maybe the answer lies in the origin of this idiom but I couldn't find anything on the Internet.

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    My guess would be that double doors were more common in olden days. – user3169 May 12 '17 at 18:18
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    @user3169 - Or that many large meeting rooms have more than one doorway. – J.R. May 12 '17 at 18:36
  • For the same reason that we say indoors, obviously. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 12 '17 at 19:01
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I do not think it refers to the number of panels on the entryway, but rather to the number of entryways one would have to pass to get to the event.

It might come from the tradition of having a room reachable only from the estate owner's private bedroom - a cabinet. That is, there are multiple doors closed between the event and the outside. So the event is so private that it is being held in a far interior room.

  • Can there be a similar explanation for "behind the scenes" as well? – M.N May 12 '17 at 20:23
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    @M.N. The phrase behind the scenes arose in the early 18th century, when theatrical settings were composed of sets of painted flats arranged in parallel sheaves running in grooves. When the scene changed, one set of these "scenes" was withdrawn to reveal the set behind it (or pushed back onstage, masking the previous set). The entire collection of "scenes" thus comprised the border between the acting space and the backstage space lying "behind the scenes". – StoneyB May 12 '17 at 21:04
  • ... compare this from Nathan Bailey's 1731 dictionary: "OVERTURE [coverture, F.] an opening or disclosing of a Matter , also a Flourish of Musick before the Scenes are opened in a Play." And here's an illustration. – StoneyB May 12 '17 at 21:05
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A lot of idioms have no rhyme or reason to them. They are that way because that's how they've always been said.

If you're looking for logical explanations, then the visual is that there is more than one door between you and whatever is going on behind the last door -- a secret meeting, an illicit affair, a clandestine encounter, etc.

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