A Dead Letter

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A law, rule, or policy that is no longer effective or enforceable.


  • “The regulation prohibiting smoking in public parks is now a dead letter. Nobody pays attention to it anymore and it is rarely enforced.”


The phrase “a dead letter” comes from the literal meaning of a letter that is not delivered to its intended recipient and becomes obsolete. In the context of law and policy, it refers to something that was once meaningful but has lost its force over time. The phrase has been in use since the 17th century and is still commonly used today.

I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other idioms you’d like me to explain.

English Vocabularya dead enda dark horsea blue stockinga cat and dog lifeblack sheepa big cheese
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Professor Emeritus of Educational Leadership University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at Camford Publishing
Founder of On the Horizon (camford publishing)and The Technology Source, and professor of education at North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Dr. Morrison is author and co-author of over 200 publications focusing on educational planning and using information technology tools.Dr. Morrison has delivered numerous conference presentations and workshops for associations such as EDUCAUSE, AAHE, the College Board and others.He has served as a planning consultant to a number of colleges, universities, university systems, community colleges, educational agencies and public agencies such as the U.S. Department of Labor, and Department of the Army.His consulting activities focus on assisting organizations to integrate information technology tools in teaching and management.

The title of his Speech is “The Future of Distance Learning.” Professor Morrison will describe the driving forces that will affect education and distance learning in this decade and will focus on the implications of these forces for education and distance learning
Dr. James Morrison
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