I’ve seen the term ‘strawman’ used a lot recently on these boards, but I’m not sure I entirely understand what it means…

Can someone explain or give me an example?
Thankiees! :slight_smile:


I think the explanation provided in the Dahnlor’s link, while I’ll assume it to be technically correct, is insufficient to explain the usage in everyday conversation.

In debates here, I sometimes see the term strawman used in the sense of weak and thereby false argument. “Your conclusion has the same relationship to the truth, as much as a strawman is human.” It looks real from a distance, but does not stand up under close examination.

In the business world (and perhaps elsewhere in real life) the term is commonly used to denote a rough draft for people to evaluate. “Let’s create a strawman proposal so we have something to examine.” Again, the term strawman is used in the sense of something weak/false/tentative in place of the strong/final reality.

That’s the kind of lines I was originally thinking along, just wanted to make sure I did actually understand it.

Ta muchley!

Ch. 4 are running a series about Georgian Britain. In a prog. about a highwayman it was mention that witnesses for hire(they’d perjure themselves for money) stood outside the old bailey. They identified themselves by placing a piece of straw in their sock. They were called strawmen. Don’t know if this has anything to do with the modern day use just thought it was interesting :slight_smile:

yojimbo, that is indeed interesting. Another example of “strawman” referring to something false as a standin for something real. In this case, a false witness.

As a continuation of the last point I found the following definition of ‘man of straw’ on the link below

man of straw - a man of no substance or capital - in early England certain poor men would loiter around the law courts offering to be a false witness for anyone if paid; they showed their availability by wearing a straw in their shoe.

In a bit of silliness back in the late 70’s/early 80’s, the US DOD commissioned the design of a new programming language. The initial document that defined the requirements for this language was whimsically called Straw Man. As they refined the document, they realized it wasn’t really a Straw Man anymore, but it wasn’t quite finished either. So the first revision became known as Tin Man, to pursue a Wizard of Oz theme. Then came Iron Man, and finally Steel Man. (Steel Man became the spec for the language that was eventually called Ada.)

So when do we get to turn it into a Wicker Man and burn it?

Fire!!! :smiley:

A “Straw man” argument is a patently absurd argument which you charecterise as the opposition so that you can demolish it an make your side look stronger.

For example: “Evolution theory states that for humans to have evolved from monkeys, there should be no more monkeys, since it is quite evidant that monkeys exist, Evolution must be false”

It’s been a few years since I studied theology, but I’m almost certain Martin Luther used the term “the man of straw” to describe the epistle of St. James. I’m not certain whther Luther originally wrote that in Latin or in German, but Luther’s use of the phrase makes me doubt whether the phrase had anything to do with English peasants who’d testtify to anything.

Luther believed that Christians are saved by faith alone. The Epistle of James argues vehemently that faith unaccompanied by good works is useless. So, naturally, Luther wanted to dismiss the argument, so he called it a “man of straw.”

When modern Americans use the phrase “straw man,” we generally mean a DELIBERATELY weak or silly argument that we ascribe to our enemies. But Luther SEEMED to be using the term to mean simply a weak, flimsy, easily-refuted argument. (In reality, of course, James’ argument was FAR from flimsy. Luther didn’t so much refute it as dismiss it and ignore it.)