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One of my favorite songs on my school years was Drop Dead Legs from the album "1984" of Van Halen. (It was one of the first cassette I bought).

My language is Spanish. I've always imagined that the song is about a woman who has fat legs, in the shape of a drop of liquid. This idea was confirmed after the TV series Drop Dead Diva, in which the protagonist is a large woman.

Currently I am learning English and I noticed that the word "drop" refers not only to the object (tear drop, rain drop), but also a verb related to falling, release, lower (the type of moves that would make a water drop). And when I look for the translation of "drop dead legs" I find results that are more associated to the verb, and in Spanish are incomprehensible (ex. soltar piernas muertas).

I guess then that drop dead is an idiom, but I could not find its true meaning. And what interests me most is knowing that relates to death.

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I've always imagined that the song is about a woman who has fat legs, in the shape of a drop of liquid...

No. Compare "Drop dead gorgeous". The legs are shapely. So shapely, a (male) person looking at them might keel over, presumably from too rapid a heart beat, or possibly a sudden loss of blood to the brain :)

See also: she's a real knockout; she's stunning.

P.S. In the interest of gender equality, I should point out that there's a similar phrase which is used of men, mainly by female speakers:

He's to die for.

I have also heard it used of rich chocolate desserts...which brings us to He's a dish!

  • 3
    suden loss of blood to the brain - charmingly put! – Stephie Jun 8 '15 at 12:37
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    So gorgeousness is like a Star Trek phaser, you can set it to stun or kill. – Steve Jessop Jun 8 '15 at 12:48
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    They that have power to hurt and will do none ...they are the lords and owners of their phasers. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 8 '15 at 13:02
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    +1 But I think the hedge on (male) is not only inaccurate but, nowadays, unnecessarily discreet. – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 8 '15 at 13:48
  • Yeah, a "ladykiller" is a very good looking man. – Ringo May 10 '16 at 7:07
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To "drop dead" is to die suddenly. Picture someone walking down the street who suddenly has a heart attack: he falls -- drops -- to the ground, and he's dead.

The phrase "drop dead" is sometimes used as an expression of anger or hatred. "I'm fed up with your lies! You can just drop dead for all I care!" That is, I wish you would die. It's not usually meant literally.

As TRomano says, the phrase can also be used in a playful sense. "Whew! When I heard I actually got that big promotion, I could have dropped dead!" Something is so fun and exciting that we imagine it is on the border of causing a heart attack or a stroke.

From this we get "drop dead" as an adjective: "It was a drop-dead deal", or, like here, "She was drop-dead beautiful."

I've never heard the song before -- I'm not much of a music fan -- but I just looked up the lyrics. "Drop dead legs, pretty smile / Hurts my head, gets me wild" etc. He's saying the girl is so pretty she drives him crazy.

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    Given the OP Spanish background, I might add that in portuguese (Brazil?) we have an expression "de cair morto" that has the same meaning. In that sense, the best litteral translation for that CD would be "Piernas de caer muerto". If you try to translate only "drop dead" you'll certainly find the meaning you really want ;) – igorsantos07 Jun 8 '15 at 15:18
  • @igorsantos07 Just curious: Why did you put a question mark after "Brazil"? Are you not sure what country you live in? – Jay Oct 1 '16 at 18:42
  • no, but that might be something that only makes sense in Brazilian Portuguese :) unfortunately I cannot edit the comment anymore to reflect that better... oh well. – igorsantos07 Oct 2 '16 at 0:08

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