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'To clutch at straws' is now used as a figurative phrase, to describe any desperate situation. The proverb has been traced back to 'Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation' by Thomas More (1478-1535). More used the imagery on several occasions, but didn't mention straw in any of them. By the 17th century, in the King James Version, this had migrated to: Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life. Want to see more videos from Idioms.Online? First cited in the United States in 'Colonial Currency' . It is only since the mid-19th century that we have been clutching at straws. When the expression was coined it specifically referred to drowning. grasping at straws. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. 'To clutch at straws' is now used as a figurative phrase, to describe any desperate situation. Origin. It was first used in 1534 by Thomas More in Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation and has been used figuratively, in different forms, since the mid-1500’s. He knew he was just grasping at straws.”, “I was failing as an artist. “Arthur was going to be laid off from work, but when they called him in he immediately brought up the fact that he had never taken a sick day in five years. : An old proverb that goes something like "Drowning men will grasp at straws," meaning that people who feel …

: An old proverb that goes something like "Drowning men will grasp at straws," meaning that people who feel desperate will try anything, even if it's unlikely to help. That usage of 'catch' was commonly used in medieval England, by which was meant 'obtain/achieve'; for example, John Wycliffe used it in his 1382 translation of the Bible into English, in 1 Timothy 6:12: Stryve thou a good strif of feith, catche everlastyng lyf. The 'catch at a straw' version of the proverb is first recorded in the English cleric John Prime's Fruitful and Brief Discourse, 1583: We do not as men redie to be drowned, catch at euery straw. In such a desperate situation that you will try even the most unhopeful way of solving it; from the idea of a drowning person trying to gain a hold on anything at all, however flimsy. The idiom ‘grasping at straws’ comes from an old proverb “A drowning man will clutch at straws,” meaning that a drowning man will grab at anything around to try to save himself, even a floating straw. Prior to that, desperate people would 'catch at a straw'.

He was just grasping at straws. The proverb is found in varying forms: a drowning man will clutch at a straw; A drowning man grabs at a straw; A drowning man snatches at straws, etc. From "The Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996). English Listening – Audio Story – Sleeping Beauty, English Listening – Audio Story – The Elves and the Shoemaker, Idiom Story – 6 Idioms About Losing My Keys – English Idiom Lesson, English Idioms: 22 Idioms About Happiness or Being Happy, Six Very Common English Idioms That Never Make the Lists: Anything Idioms.  The notion of a drowning man anxiously seeking 'any port in a storm' was first expressed by Sir Thomas More, in A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, 1534: A man in peril of drowning catchest whatsoever cometh next to hand... be it never so simple a stick. Straws do float, but a drowning man would have to be pretty much out of other ideas if he put any reliance on it bearing his weight. Dictionary of Unfamiliar Words by Diagram Group Copyright © 2008 by Diagram Visual Information Limited. I had yet to sell a painting. grasping at straws Fig. 'Don't give/care a straw' was an indication of indifference, a 'man of straw' was an insubstantial adversary, and to 'condemn someone to straw' was to declare them ready for the madhouse. To be grasping at straws means to be willing to do, say, or believe anything that offers even the slightest hope in a desperate situation, even though there is almost no chance for success. In Reply to: Clutching at straws posted by R. Berg on January 05, 2004. : : does anyone know the origin of clutching at straws, or maybe, grasping at straws. He kept grasping at straws, bringing up any little thing he thought might discredit his opponent.”. See full affiliate disclosure. to depend on something that is useless; to make a futile attempt at something. Even more recently, the 'grasp at straws' version has become commonplace, especially in the USA. The proverb has its counterpart in other languages too." Being, as it was, a flimsy and virtually valueless waste product, it was often used as a synonym for the most unimportant and trifling of objects. The notion of a drowning man anxiously seeking 'any port in a storm' was first expressed by Sir Thomas More, in A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation , 1534: A straw was chosen as the height of futility as a means of rescue. Try any route to get out of a desperate situation, no matter how unlikely it is to succeed.
(Yes, that Thomas More, the Catholic theologian and author of Utopia who was beheaded by King Henry VIII for refusing to swear an oath placing loyalty to … In Reply to: Clutching at straws posted by R. Berg on January 05, 2004: : does anyone know the origin of clutching at straws, or maybe, grasping at straws. A DROWNING MAN WILL CATCH AT STRAWS - "A desperate person will try anything to save himself, no matter how unlikely. When the expression was coined it specifically referred to drowning. Our present day ambitions are more prosaic and we only use that sense of 'catch' now to catch trains, buses and, occasionally, colds. The metaphor expresses futility rather well. John couldn't answer the teacher's question. This page contains one or more affiliate links. Subscribe to our YouTube channel! He is grasping at straws because he simply cites the views of others rather than producing hard evidence of malpractice. The phrase comes from the 1500s, and it means to desperately grab at anything, The first recorded use in print is in the 1534 book Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, by Thomas More. The idiom ‘grasping at straws’ comes from an old proverb “A drowning man will clutch at straws,” meaning that a drowning man will grab at anything around to try to save himself, even a floating straw. “Grabbing at straws” (or “grasping,” today the more common form) comes from the very old proverb noted by Samuel Richardson in his novel Clarissa (1748): “A drowning man will catch at a straw, the proverb well says.” To my amazement, I sold almost all of my paintings!”, The candidate was losing the debate badly. The expression is “grasping at straws,” not “grasping for straws.”. Moving on to the 19th century, 'catch' has fallen from favour and we find an early mention of the current 'clutch at straws' version in The New-York Mirror, 1832: On to the 21st century and you no longer need to be drowning or desperate to clutch at straws - straw clutch bags have become fashion items. Clutching at straws, I decided to have a sidewalk sale.

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