Last modified on 25 October 2007, at 19:21

Talk:poor power

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How is this idiomatic? Kappa 16:10, 25 October 2007 (UTC)

Because poor means having limited money (not relevant), pitiable, or of low quality. But "poor power" is power insufficient to the cause, as an expression of humility; it does not say that the power is pitiable or of low quality, but quite the opposite. Lincoln is not saying his power with words is pitiable or of low quality (!), but that his immense power with words is insufficient to add or detract from the sacrifice of the soldiers there. Robert Ullmann 16:45, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
If it meant "immense power which just happens to be inadequate in the circumstances" that would be idiomatic but the other cites don't support that. Kappa 18:06, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
When I created this entry, I debated (briefly) in my own mind whether to put the {{idiom}} tag on it or not, and decided to go with it. I tend to take "idiom" in the RHD's sense of "an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements". The usual meaning of "poor" is "impoverished" and that doesn't make much sense with "power." Also, even if we take "poor" to mean "deficient," "scanty," or "modest," as it sometimes does, there is a tension between this sense and the usual sense of "power," which carries a connotation of substantialness and strength. So the meaning is challenging to glean simply from the meanings of the component terms, and that makes it an idiom in my judgment (although not the most in-your-face idiom that ever was, to sure). Another test I sometimes use is whether the expression would make sense to a person whose first language is not English, but who knows the component terms, and, here again, I think that kind of English speaker would tend to be puzzled by this expression. -- WikiPedant 18:22, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
I'd agree that its challenging to figure out, and its not something you'd see in modern English, but the number of "challenging" two-word combinations out there is going to be pretty much infinite. Kappa 18:38, 25 October 2007 (UTC)
Well, Kappa, it all comes down to a judgment in each case about the degree of challenge, doesn't it? I see this one as falling on the "idiom" side of the line. But, if, in your heart of hearts, you feel an overwhelming need to delete the template, it isn't exactly worth an edit war to me. (PS: I believe the term is still in use among educated speakers of contemporary English, at least in some circles, although it is rare.) -- WikiPedant 19:21, 25 October 2007 (UTC)