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”Slamming open the door”.

In British English, does the phrase denote a flung open door that slams into something? Or, does the phrase’s meaning stretch to violently opened doors in general?

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4 Answers 4

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I have never heard of a door being "slammed open" - it sounds entirely non-idiomatic to me.

The principal use of slam - per the OED is in shutting. To shut (a door, window, etc.) with violence and noise; to bang; to close with unnecessary force. Also with adverbs, as down, to, up.

There are however idiomatic figurative uses such as slam on the brakes, though slam almost always carries the connotation of noise and/or violent action - such as the car slammed into the one in front.

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A trick that everyone abhors in little girls is slamming doors. A wealthy banker's little daughter Who lived in Palace Green, Bayswater, by name Rebecca Offendort, was given to this furious sport. She would deliberately go and slam the door like billy-ho to make her uncle Jacob start. ...

The point of this extract from Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales is that the standard usage of 'slam' in the context of doors is that it describes the violent and noisy shutting of them. This usually happens at the end of a bad tempered argument, to which one party tries to put a victorious end by leaving the room with a final insult and shutting the door with a violent bang made by the edge of the door crashing into the door frame.

Opening a door with a loud bang is rather more difficult, because it has to move though up to 180 degrees before it can hit a wall, and so needs to be on very well-oiled hinges. Or it has to be in the corner of a room so that the door handle can violently strike the adjacent wall, denting the plaster. Eve then the noise is nowhere near as loud and satisfying.

Moreover, why would anyone slam a door open? Perhaps to start a row? That is possible. If so the author is using the irregular usage for dramatic effect. For the reason I have explained, the standard expression for the violent treatment of doors is to fling them open and slam them shut. The writer might be aiming at a dramatic effect by using slam open: using the opposite word from that expected will certainly grab a reader's attention. Whether the reader's reaction is to be more gripped by the drama or distracted by a slightly strange usage depends entirely on what follows the unconventional usage. And this we do not have.

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I see a progression through:

He inched the door open (cautious slow action)*

He opened the door (simple action)

He flung the door open (careless action)

He threw the door open (careless forceful action)

He slammed the door open (forceful action and noisy interaction with wall, hinges or other adjacent objects)

He smashed the door open (violent and damaging action)

The distinction between flung and threw, if there is a distinction, is small. Otherwise, this progression suggests that we may use slamming open as an acceptable usage on a scale between cautious opening and destructive violence.

Edit: From comments, I seem not to have expressed myself clearly. Here is a picture of an opening door as it is slammed open against an exterior wall.

enter image description here

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    Slam the door open does not work. slam is away from oneself and towards a surface, like a doorframe. slam down the phone.
    – Lambie
    Dec 18, 2021 at 15:24
  • @Lambie Indeed, as my third option makes clear in circumstances when the opening door meets the adjacent wall. Have you never noticed the dramatic effect so obtained with bar doors in a Clint Eastwood western?
    – Anton
    Dec 18, 2021 at 15:32
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    No, it does not work. This would work: He kicked open the door which slammed against the large box dropped a few feet behind it. Slam=away from oneself.
    – Lambie
    Dec 18, 2021 at 15:36
  • @Lambie slam has no necessary overtones of direction away or towards self. But that is irrelevant. If I push a door away from myself hard and it opens wide (probably through 180 degrees on a long wall or 90 degrees if the door open into an outside corner) against the surface of the outside wall, it slams against that wall, does it not?
    – Anton
    Dec 18, 2021 at 15:40
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    Not overtunes. The word slam has a semantic trait which requires movement from a point in space stopped by or ending at surface of some kind. Yes, to slam against a wall is fine. But, not: He slammed the door open.
    – Lambie
    Dec 18, 2021 at 18:29
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I agree that one slams a door shut in ordinary usage but flings or shoves it open. It is possible that the door slams into something or someone after it is shoved or that one slams into the door while barreling through the doorway. You could say someone burst through the door (implying a forceful opening of the door and entry through the doorway) but that can also though not always carry the sense that the door was actually destroyed by the entry (a la superheroes).

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