loose cannon

Thomas1

Senior Member
polszczyzna warszawska
Hi
What connotations does the above expression convey, please???
How informal is it???
Is it offensive to call someone a 'loose cannon'???
Does it always mean someone dangerously uncontrollable?

Thanks in advance for help:) ,
Thomas
 
  • Johnzinho

    New Member
    USA/Chicago-English
    At sea, when a cannon got loose from whatever was securing it, and the ship was tossed about on the waves, the cannon would roll around the deck striking people and other items indiscriminately.

    When you describe someone as a "loose cannon" you are saying he or she is dangerously out of control. It is an idiom that is generally considered to be derogotory when used to describe a person.

    Any additions or clarifications, fellow language enthusiasts?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This phrase is used, in my experience, about what people will say, rather than what they may do.

    What connotations does the above expression convey, please???
    Someone described as a loose cannon is unpredictable, likely to say anything that comes into their head no matter how we may have prepared in advance for the situation.

    How informal is it???
    Very informal.

    Is it offensive to call someone a 'loose cannon'???
    Yes. It is normally used to describe someone who isn't there:D

    Does it always mean someone dangerously uncontrollable?
    See above.

    The expression comes, I imagine, from cannon on an old sailing ship that should be held in place by ropes and pulleys. A loose cannon rolling about on a heaving gun deck would have been extremely dangerous.
     

    ¡Linda!

    New Member
    United States, English
    To add on to Johnzinho's Reply, the connotation does imply that the term "loose cannon" is indeed offensive. In my personal experience, I have also heard the term used loosely, to describe people who are really crazy, not in an offensive way, but almost as a term of endearment. All I can say is, you better know the person quite well before you call them a loose cannon and expect them to take it lightly, because the connotation does imply that it is indeed offensive.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    :) Well, well; two new people to welcome in one post:)

    Welcome to Johnzinho - I'm glad we agreed, for I didn't see your post before I sent mine:p

    Welcome also to ¡Linda!

    I hope you both enjoy these forums:D
     

    nycphotography

    Senior Member
    American English
    panjandrum said:
    This phrase is used, in my experience, about what people will say, rather than what they may do.
    Dirty Harry (the movie character) was considered a loose cannon, and I'm sure it wasn't because of what he might say!
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    Thus, you wouldn't call a 'braggart' a 'loose cannon' since I found such translation into Polish in a dictionary ???
    Thanks everyone for answers they helped me a lot, welcome to John and Linda :)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    nycphotography: I wondered if my own experience of this label was a bit limited:) I don't come across many people quite like Dirty Harry, of course:eek:

    Thomas1: I don't really see any connection between "loose cannon" and "braggart".
     

    Isotta

    Senior Member
    English, Hodgepodge
    Right, I feel like a "loose cannon" is basically a more unpredictable "hothead." Plus while one would generally take offense at being called a "loose cannon," it is not at all vulgar.

    Z.
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    If you work in larger organisations a loose cannon would be someone who says what s/he thinks and wouldn't follow the party line or the agreed way of thinking. In the story about the emperor with no clothes, the boy who pointed out that the emperor was stark naked would have been viewed by his superiors as a loose cannon.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    cirrus said:
    If you work in larger organisations a loose cannon would be someone who says what s/he thinks and wouldn't follow the party line or the agreed way of thinking. In the story about the emperor with no clothes, the boy who pointed out that the emperor was stark naked would have been viewed by his superiors as a loose cannon.
    I was about to protest - but no, when I think of loose cannon I have known, that is very close. The problem with loose cannon of this variety is not that they are pointing out the truth, but that they will unerringly pick the most inappropriate moment to point out the truth.

    Take the Emperor's clothes story. Imagine that the Empire is under attack and the Emperor, wearing his new clothes, is leading his army against the enemy. He has inspired the army of the Empire with flair and a commitment to leadership rarely seen. The crisis battle is now approaching.

    Our friend the loose cannon would pick this moment to point out that the great leader was riding his horse bareback. At which point the army collapses in disarray and the Empire is lost.
     

    nycphotography

    Senior Member
    American English
    Really, I think, one need merely visualize a loose cannon being fired from a gunship. Basically, you're as likely to shoot yourself as the enemy.

    Though often spectacularly successful, unpredictably so, with a high expectation of collateral damage.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top