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britannica.com:

to smash — to hit (something) violently and very hard:
(1) She smashed [=crushed] her finger in the door.

What does "smashed her finger in the door" mean?
Could you please describe the process which happened in (1) in more detail?

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  • It would appear that Britannica does not provide a definition that applies to their sample sentence. They're getting sloppy over there. Smashing you finger in a door means the door has closed on on your finger and crushed, cut, bruised, broke, and/or mangled your finger. It does not, however, mean what any of the four examples in your link say it means. Period. I wonder why they show = crushed but don't use crush as a definition. Maybe I need a Britannica decoder ring?
    – EllieK
    Commented May 23 at 13:34
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    @EllieK The definition looks like it applies to me? She hit her finger violently and very hard with a door when she smashed it in the door. Commented May 23 at 17:58
  • @DanielWagner - I see. She hit it with the door when she smashed it in the door. Wouldn't the correct sentence then be, She smashed her finger with the door? To me, that's the one that looks like it applies. If I said to you, I hit my finger quite violently in a vice, would you understand what I was saying? Would you think I meant the vice crushed my finger if I said that? Are you ignoring the prepositional usage in order to wedge your definition into a space where it doesn't fit?
    – EllieK
    Commented May 23 at 18:42
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    @EllieK fwiw, this is not the first time I've seen something very questionable in a Britannica reference. And yes, I've never heard this phrase as an english as first language brit. Not smashing in doors; not smashing in, but with, like you said. Also, in regards to a door specifically, I'd never say "smash", I'd say "crush" or "caught". Britannica should have just said "She smashed the watermelon with a hammer"
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented May 23 at 23:54
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    @EllieK Yes, I'm ignoring the prepositional usage, because "smashed in a door" is an idiomatic phrase that you pretty much have to either use exactly as is or not use at all. It doesn't really support modifications except for substituting a few synonym verbs; your examples are good evidence of this. Commented May 24 at 5:37

3 Answers 3

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Saying something was caught/trapped "in the door" is an idiomatic (in British English at least) way of saying something was caught between the door and the doorframe as it closed, either on the latch side or in the hinge.

"Smashed" to describe a finger injury isn't particularly idiomatic in British English, but apparently is common in US English. This medical resource has a whole page on "smashed fingers". British English speakers would understand it but are more likely to hear "smashed" as an informal term, for emphasis or exaggeration.

So, to describe the incident, the person may have been leaning against the door frame while the door was open with at least one finger in the door jamb or the open hinge; then the door was closed into the frame and the finger was caught between them.

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    Can confirm, if you tell an American that you "smashed" your finger in the door, you'll get a sympathetic wince every time. I'm pretty sure I felt actual pain reading the title of this question! Commented May 23 at 21:51
  • More generally, "in the door" can usually be read as "in the doorway"... e.g. someone standing in the door is not literally inside the actual door, but within the space of the door frame. Commented May 24 at 3:19
  • @SimonGeard I think that is "at the door".
    – qwerty
    Commented May 24 at 5:05
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    @qwerty: To my (British English) ear, someone “at the door” is usually just outside or inside a possibly-closed door: “She was waiting at the door for several minutes several minutes before anyone came to let her in.” I’d be more likely to describe @ SmionGeard’s situation as “standing in the doorway”, though.
    – PLL
    Commented May 24 at 7:01
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I was born in, and still live in, the USA. Yes, I would say "she smashed it in the door."

This seems to happen in my family with car doors most of all. For example, one might be standing just outside the car but be adjusting a loose seatbelt or something inside the "swing" of the door (i.e. the space the door could sweep through), and if the wind gusts up the result is that the door closes on one's finger, hand, etc. The door is then almost closed, but the finger stops it and is often somewhat trapped between the door and the frame around it.

Likewise, one could be in the process of entering or exiting the car, experience a moment of awkward terrain/packages/children, and misjudge whether one is clear of the danger at the moment of closing the door. Again, the finger is in the edge where the closed door is intended to rest. In this case I would also say "I slammed my finger in the door." If it is just my hair or clothes, however, I usually just say "caught."

My intuition says that severity is relevant to my word choice. If I crush my finger in a door, vise, etc., it suggests that the injury is severe enough to require medical attention (bones may be broken, for example), but a smashed finger may just hurt for the day, and a caught item is often undamaged once released.

Doors inside a house are much less likely to smash fingers unless small children are involved. They may insert a finger in the gap near a hinge, then get it smashed unwittingly when the door closes or opens, changing the angle of the gap. I have also smashed fingers in a few file cabinets: a metal drawer filled with paperwork can require a forceful push and then close very quickly, again trapping a fingertip between the face of the drawer and the metal frame of the cabinet.

I hope these examples give enough context to help you make sense of the sample from Britannica.

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smash in this locution refers to the pinching, crushing force the door can exert upon a finger. Like the act of smashing itself, the verb lacks precision.

"The door" can refer the door as a mode of ingress/egress:

My sister walked in the door.

or as a tangible architectural construct, a swinging part mounted to a stationary frame with hinges.

He swung the door closed.

To "smash your finger in the door" refers to the door not as a mode of ingress/egress but as a physical moving object that can close forcefully on a person's finger.

The person who "smashed their finger in the door" did something themselves (usually by accident) or was the victim of someone else doing something (again usually by accident) that resulted in their finger getting very badly pinched between the door and the frame, typically on the knob or handle side though it's not impossible for it to happen on the hinge side as there is a gap there large enough for a finger to slip into when the door is open, a gap that narrows when the door is closed.

There are various kinds of doors (car doors, house doors, revolving doors, etc) and most doors present some risk to a wayward finger.

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