flex one's authority

Discussion in 'English Only' started by HSS, Feb 23, 2013.

  1. HSS

    HSS Senior Member

    Sendai, Japan
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    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. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    "Flex one's muscles" means "display one's authority". This is a strange muddle of the two expressions.
     
  3. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    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:cross:

    EDIT: Cross-posted.
     
  4. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    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.


     
  5. HSS

    HSS Senior Member

    Sendai, Japan
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Hi, Collins English defines 'flex' as also meaning 'display (one's authority or strength) (Collins English).' So maybe it's entering the usage?
     
  6. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    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.
     
  7. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    Texas
    English - US
    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.
     
  8. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    Connecticut
    English - US (Midwest)
    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.
     
  9. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    This is a better collocation than the one I suggested.
     
  10. frdrw Junior Member

    Español -Colombia/Father's: English -US
    I'd say it means "showing off" or "asserting" his authority. A creative way to say it.
     
  11. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    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'.
    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).
     

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