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Thread: flex one's authority

  1. #1
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    flex one's authority

    Can anyone please enlighten me on how this meaning of 'display (one's authority)' relates to the other meanings of the word 'to bend,' 'contract (one's muscles),' etc.? Or, does it?

    RICK: (to an Observer after he man-handles one of his 'employees') Excuse me. [...] You guys keep taking my girls, you're gonna put me out of business.

    NEO-OBSERVER: Get a new girl. (throws Kitty to the couch. provokes a punch in the gut from Rick)
    (Rick is restrained by uniformed Loyalists and a senior Observer steps-in to flex his authority)
    ('Letters of Transit,' Fringe Season 4)

  2. #2
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    Re: flex one's authority

    "Flex one's muscles" means "display one's authority". This is a strange muddle of the two expressions.
    Please expect this post to change in its first day or so as I reflect on the issue.

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    Re: flex one's authority

    I'd call that 'a mistake', Hiro. The person who wrote it couldn't decide whether to say flex his muscles or assert his authority (which mean pretty much the same thing), so accidentally ended up fusing the two

    EDIT: Cross-posted.
    Edit yourself ~ its less embarassing than someone else doing it for you,

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    Re: flex one's authority

    To flex can be used figuratively and usually means "to use something confidently and easily, often by way of show or example."

    As has been said, flexing his authority does not seem natural but would be understood.


    "There are no rules in English, only guidance. Some guidance looks like a rule; it probably isn't."

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    Re: flex one's authority

    Quote Originally Posted by se16teddy View Post
    "Flex one's muscles" means "display one's authority". This is a strange muddle of the two expressions.
    Quote Originally Posted by ewie View Post
    I'd call that 'a mistake', Hiro. The person who wrote it couldn't decide whether to say flex his muscles or assert his authority (which mean pretty much the same thing), so accidentally ended up fusing the two

    EDIT: Cross-posted.
    Hi, Collins English defines 'flex' as also meaning 'display (one's authority or strength) (Collins English).' So maybe it's entering the usage?

  6. #6
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    Re: flex one's authority

    After thinking about it, and on this occasion, I agree with Collins.

    I looked at the OED and the entry there says that "to flex" is used of muscles or appendages with muscles but the entry has not been updated since 1896!

    I also note that there are no examples of things flexing - e.g. "The branch flexed as he hung on it" The meaning has moved on.
    "There are no rules in English, only guidance. Some guidance looks like a rule; it probably isn't."

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    Re: flex one's authority

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulQ View Post
    As has been said, flexing his authority does not seem natural but would be understood.
    It should be "exercise his authority". The substitution of "flex" could be either a joke or a mistake. In any case, those are the words of the anonymous transcriber, not the TV show itself.

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    Re: flex one's authority

    A lot of muscle-flexing is done to impress people who see it (such as at the beach or the gym). "Flexing his authority" gives me an image of someone's stepping in just to show off (ie, impress others with) his own importance.
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    Re: flex one's authority

    Quote Originally Posted by ewie View Post
    assert his authority
    This is a better collocation than the one I suggested.
    Please expect this post to change in its first day or so as I reflect on the issue.

  10. #10
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    Re: flex one's authority

    I'd say it means "showing off" or "asserting" his authority. A creative way to say it.

  11. #11
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    Re: flex one's authority

    To me, it suggests that the senior observer was demonstrating his authority, in order to maintain his position.
    'Flex', though expressive, still seems awkward. I would prefer 'exert'.
    Quote Originally Posted by PaulQ View Post
    I looked at the OED and the entry there says that "to flex" is used of muscles or appendages with muscles but the entry has not been updated since 1896!
    If the last example quoted is from 1896, it does not mean the entry has not been updated since then.
    For each meaning of a word, the OED chooses quotations to give, at the minimum, the earliest (not the latest) occurrence of that meaning.
    No later example means no change of meaning as at the latest update (whenever that was).
    How do we know whether an expression we have never met before is not or grammatical?

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