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Grasping at straws or clutching at straws

  • Grasping at straws means to be so desperate as to try even the most unlikely means to save oneself. It comes from the proverb: “A drowning man will catch at a straw…” noted in the novel “Clarissa”, published in 1748 or the proverb: “We do not as men redie to be drowned, catch at euery straw”, which appears in the book “Fruitful and Brief Discourse” published in 1583.

    Grasping at straws is also used when someone is making a baseless argument.

    In Britain and Australia, the more common term is clutching at straws, or sometimes catching at straws.

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    While straws might float, they will not bear the weight of a drowning man. Therefore, grasping at straws or clutching at straws refers to a futile or desperate situation.

    Examples

    But in relation to the Costa Ricans we are grasping at straws, because they do not wait for death to honor those who hold significance to them and in this way those they care about are not often lost. (Daily Tribune)

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