a welfare case

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Cleo learns that Akeem, a cleaner in his restaurant whom his daughter Lisa likes, is a prince.
- A prince. He's a prince! Oh, Lisa, you did it this time. You hit the jackpot! Your little goat herder [Akeem] makes Darryl [her rich ex-boyfriend] look like a welfare case.
Coming to America, movie

What meaning does "case" have here?
Thank you.
  • Juhasz

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Merriam-Websters - Case: the object of [an] investigation or consideration.

    In your example, a welfare case is just a person on welfare. Same usage as in this example from The Breakfast Club: "You wanna miss a match? You wanna blow your ride? No no school's gonna give a scholarship to a discipline case." Here, a student with a record of disciplinary action.
    It's a displacement for 'person', Vik. The 'case' is the welfare file and the engagement of 'welfare authorities.' Welfare authorities keep 'case files.' So the persons, by extension, are 'cases.' (Though it's impolite to call a person a 'case'.)

    The legal case is a legal engagement. By displacement, "His case [the lawyer's client] looked disappointed."
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