"I was the exposed nail in the meeting room." What does "the exposed nail" mean in the context?

  • It is not a common idiom. The (so far) two answers probably cover the possibilities pretty well.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 11:33
  • 1
    There is a Japanese proverb 出る釘は打たれる (the nail that sticks out gets hammered in). Perhaps the thought behind your example is similar.
    – Robusto
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 11:42
  • Another possibility is that the speaker is presenting himself or herself as the one hazard (for example, as being the one dangerous dissenting voice) at a meeting that otherwise was effectively stage-managed to push through the leader's or leadership committee's agenda with minimum resistance. In this interpretation, "the exposed nail" is the critic to be handled carefully, avoided, gotten around, or silenced (the last possibility again suggesting the metaphor of being hammered into submission).
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 19:23

3 Answers 3


An educated guess might be that exposed nail is someone who is going to get hammered on, i.e. the one who is going to be blamed?


Here is an exposed nail.

enter image description here

The person is perceived as dangerous to the discussion, perhaps going against the consensus.


As Joost Kiefte points out (and the picture suggests), an exposed nail is liable to be hammered down.


I think this more accurately illustrates the concept "The raised nail gets the hammer." Kind of the opposite of "the squeaky wheel gets the grease"!


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