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See also: strawman



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Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, 1986 passim, shows first known usages for things insubstantial date to 1585-95. Universal Dictionary of the English Language, 1897, Vol 4, p. 4485, notes “man of straw” as “The figure of a man formed of an old suit of clothes stuffed with straw; hence, the mere resemblance of a man; one of no substance or means; an imaginary person.”


straw man (plural straw men)

  1. A doll or scarecrow, particularly one stuffed with straw.
  2. (figuratively) An innocuous person or someone of nominal or lesser importance, as a front man or straw boss.
  3. (figuratively) An insubstantial concept, idea, endeavor or argument, particularly one deliberately set up to be weakly supported, so that it can be easily knocked down; especially to impugn the strength of any related or contrasted thing or idea.
  4. (figuratively, engineering, business, jargon) An outline serving as an initial proposal for a project, usually refined iteratively.
    a tentative strawman spec



straw man (third-person singular simple present straw mans, present participle straw manning, simple past and past participle straw manned)

  1. To falsely attribute an insubstantial argument (a straw man argument) to another through direct declaration or indirect implication; to put words in someone's mouth.
    Person A: "Cats have claws."
    Person B: "Not all cats have claws: some are declawed."
    Person A: "Don't straw man me; I never said all."
    Person B: "Well, I never said you said all, so don't straw man me either. But you didn't say some cats or most cats so I wanted to interject in case others assumed the lack of qualifier to imply all cats."

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