It's from the IT novel by Stephen King. Here's the context:

Chris Unwin pushed him backward and Hagarty landed in a teeth-rattling heap on the sidewalk.

What does it mean to land in a teeth-rattling heap?

1 Answer 1


Because Hagarty was pushed over backwards, the fall was awkward and uncontrolled, leading to an ungainly posture on the ground. The force and shock of the fall made Hagarty's jaw open and close, with the teeth knocking against each other, causing a rattling sound.

The teeth-rattling heap condenses this into a short expressive phrase.

  • 2
    This is, though, a brilliant, original, metaphor unique to Steven King. It isn't a standard English idiom. Don't expect to see it anywhere else. It's unlikely that King used it again.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 20, 2021 at 0:44
  • @WeatherVane Wow! That's pretty impressive! I would never guess the meaning myself. So, the word heap here means the ungainly posture of Hagarty on the ground, right? Sep 20, 2021 at 7:01
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    Yes. Fell in a heap is pretty standard, it's just the bit about the teeth that is unusual. Sep 20, 2021 at 7:23
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    @JConstantine no, it means that Hagarty was facing Chris, Chris pushed him in the front and Hagarty fell backwards, that is away from Chris in the direction his own back was facing. If I step backwards I move my feet heel first, if l drive my car backwards I have selected reverse gear.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 20, 2021 at 7:59
  • 1
    ... back to King's description: if you are falling over 'back first' it's very hard to break your fall and land in a controlled way, and without hitting your head on the ground. Imagine being Hagarty. Unwin steps towards you and gives you an unexpected shove in the chest, which pushes you off balance, and you can't recover. Down you go, probably with your arms windmilling in an attempt to get control of your fall. you hit the ground hard, your jaw goes slack, and your upper and lower teeth bounce against each other. Sep 20, 2021 at 8:52

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