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.
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.
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)
Does workplace design boost performance, or is it another passing trend for companies who are grasping at straws in their ongoing quest to be “cool”, innovative or enticing in their efforts for attracting top talent? (Forbes)
NASA scientists are grasping at straws trying to figure out what they’re seeing, and the Dawn space probe launched in 2007 continues to deliver baffling photographs. (International Business Times)
But the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said the Congress has run out of ideas and is “clutching at straws”. (The Calcutta Telegraph)
Yet if her rivals find themselves poring over the match statistics and pick that one out as a potential weakness that can be exploited down the line, they will be clutching at straws. (The Guardian)
But this is clutching at straws: later in that same paragraph, Gessen admits that Tamerlan had not actually lived in Chechnya during the war. (The Daily Mail)