What is meant by "strawman-like"?

odin_revisited

Member
India and Tamil
Finally, there is (once again) a strawman-like quality to his argument.

What does the bolded part mean in the sentence?

Thanks in advance.
 
  • Blumengarten

    Senior Member
    America / English
    A strawman is a man made of straw, more commonly known as a scarecrow. The phrase means that his argument is "full of stuffing," there's no substance to it. From a distance (especially if you're a crow), a scarecrow appears to be real, but on closer examination, it's clearly fake.

    A strawman argument is one which can easily persuade people, but does not actually refute the opponent's argument.
     

    Blumengarten

    Senior Member
    America / English
    Thanks! I'm glad you could understand my explanation. I was hoping I wasn't using too many idioms like "full of stuffing" that might need more explaining! :)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm not entirely happy with these explanations. I've heard people use the expression to mean an argument presented not because it is held by the person putting it forward, but because they feel that it needs to be refuted. Someone might put forward a strawman-argument if they wished to play devil's advocate. When presenting a view we need to consider the obvious objections to it, and be sure that we can refute them. Sure the man is full of straw, in the sense that nobody necessarily believes in him, but if he can't be refuted he deserves very serious attention.

    In my world straw men roar louder than paper tigers.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    As a native BE speaker I've never heard this expression before, and I don't think I've heard a scarecrow referred to as a strawman before either. Can anyone enlighten me as to the origin of this expression?
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    As a native BE speaker I've never heard this expression before, and I don't think I've heard a scarecrow referred to as a strawman before either. Can anyone enlighten me as to the origin of this expression?
    It seems logical enough that scarecrows would be the inspiration for straw man. It's interesting to see, then, that the Merriam-Webster Unabridged does not mention the scarecrow in its entries for straw man or man of straw, nor does The Century Dictionary mention the scarecrow in its subentry man of straw (under the entry man). In addition, under its entry straw, the Century has this subentry: "Face of straw, a sham ; a mere effigy."
     

    Blumengarten

    Senior Member
    America / English
    It seems logical enough that scarecrows would be the inspiration for straw man. It's interesting to see, then, that the Merriam-Webster Unabridged does not mention the scarecrow in its entries for straw man or man of straw, nor does The Century Dictionary mention the scarecrow in its subentry man of straw (under the entry man).
    Wow, that's interesting. Outside of "The Wizard of Oz," I've never heard of a scarecrow referred to as a strawman. When the Cowardly Lion attacks the scarecrow, Dorothy says, "It's bad enough picking on a strawman, but picking on a little dog," so that's at least one documented reference to strawman meaning scarecrow -- but of course, even in the movie, they usually refer to him as a scarecrow.
     
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