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Origin of straw man
Words nearby straw man
What does straw man mean?
A straw man is a fictional, exaggerated version of an opposing viewpoint, especially one that’s intentionally created to be easy to dismiss or argue against and to make one’s own argument seem stronger.
It’s commonly used in the phrase straw man argument, referring to an argument that uses a straw man. Straw man is sometimes spelled strawman.
A straw man argument is a kind of logical fallacy, which is an illogical or misleading argument. Straw man arguments can be made unintentionally, but most are made on purpose to make the other side seem evil, incompetent, or extremist.
Because straw men are not based on reality, they are often considered deceitful or nonsensical, and the term implies a criticism of such methods. They are often associated with their use in political arguments or debates. For example, during a campaign, a politician may call for greater government protection for endangered wolves. If that politician’s opponent then accuses them of wanting to release wolves into elementary schools, that’s a straw man argument.
The literal meaning of straw man refers to the likeness of a person made out of straw (like a scarecrow).
Straw man can also be used to refer to a person who’s used to cover someone’s else’s activities when they may be illegal or unethical. For example, this sense of straw man can refer to someone who makes a straw purchase—a purchase of something, such as a gun, for a person who is restricted from buying it.
Example: The senator was criticized for using a straw man argument during the debate instead of addressing his opponent’s real position.
Where does straw man come from?
The first records of the term straw man come from the 1580s. It was used literally to refer to a human figure made out of straw. The use of straw man to refer to a form of argument is newer, although the exact origin is unknown.
The term is used as a metaphor, alluding to the fact that a person made of straw is obviously not real and is therefore an easy opponent due to being incapable of fighting back.
The goal of a straw man is to weaken an opponent’s actual argument and make your own look better in comparison. Of course, this strategy can fail if the audience realizes that you are attacking a straw man because you aren’t confident in your own position and wouldn’t hold up against the opposing argument.
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What are some other forms related to straw man?
- straw men (plural)
- strawman (alternate spelling)
- straw-man (alternate spelling)
What are some synonyms for straw man?
What are some words that share a root or word element with straw man?
What are some words that often get used in discussing straw man?
How is straw man used in real life?
The phrase straw man implies a criticism of such arguments. Straw man arguments are especially associated with political debates.
"This is going to ruin cinema!" yeah, every decade since the twenties wants their straw man argument back.
— Moltar, Moltar, and Moltar (@cooke9000) August 2, 2020
It’s hard to have a debate with people on twitter because 98% of people on here use straw man arguments for every single rebuttal they have
— Kylan Morris (@KylanDMorris) July 28, 2018
Is it me or does “Law & Order: SVU” have some of the biggest straw man characters ever?
— John Miles (@PrivatizeEdu) December 30, 2018
Try using straw man!
True or False?
A straw man is an accurate representation of an opposing argument that is logically disproved with researched facts and figures.
Example sentences from the Web for straw man
He then dismissed both of his own straw-man questions as “unfair,” which they are, before signing out of our conversation.Mayor Bloomberg’s Response to Sandy Leaves Many New Yorkers Out in the Cold|Harry Siegel|November 5, 2012|DAILY BEAST
Much of the opposition to allowing underage girls to buy the pill over the counter amounts to straw-man arguments.Michael Tomasky: A Progressive Defense of the White House on Plan B|Michael Tomasky|December 9, 2011|DAILY BEAST
Every boy brought a handful of nosegays and fastened them to the straw-man, who was thus enveloped in flowers.
Being condemned to death, the straw-man is led through the village, shot, and burned upon a pyre.
Sometimes a stuffed recamúchi (cacomistle, bassariscus) is used either in the place of a straw-man or in addition to it.Unknown Mexico, Volume 1 (of 2)|Carl Lumholtz
British Dictionary definitions for straw man
noun mainly US
Cultural definitions for straw man
A made-up version of an opponent's argument that can easily be defeated. To accuse people of attacking a straw man is to suggest that they are avoiding worthier opponents and more valid criticisms of their own position: “His speech had emotional appeal, but it wasn't really convincing because he attacked a straw man rather than addressing the real issues.”