Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am having difficulties trying to understand this sentence:

In some respects, Courses of Action are the more basic of the two. In and of themselves, however, Courses of Action tend to be rather blunt instruments.

In Merrian Webster, blunt is:

slow, deficient in feeling; obtuse in understanding; abrupt in manner;... and when searching for images in Google, it seems a blunt instrument can be a bat, a hammer, and any other object used to hit something or someone.

What is the meaning of tend to be "blunt instrument"? It will determine if a course of action will be successful or not like a judge's hammer?

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by MετάEd, Robusto, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, FumbleFingers, tchrist Feb 9 '13 at 13:59

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

1  
Welcome to EL&U. You can find definitions for "blunt instrument" at onelook.com. See particularly the definitions given by Macmillan. –  MετάEd Jan 16 '13 at 11:56
1  
There's a mystery story by the pseudonymous author Ellery Queen where someone is killed with a mandolin! Truly a blunt instrument! (I won't spoil the rest of the plot.) –  Andrew Lazarus Jan 16 '13 at 15:35
    
And there's a delightful cartoon by Chas Addams showing a middle-aged middle-class lady in a '30s department store, asking the clerk at the information desk: "Where do you keep blunt instruments, please?" –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 16 '13 at 19:44

1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The most common time to hear "blunt instrument" is on police shows (or if you are indeed what Martin Amis would call "a police", then perhaps in real life) when the forensics people say something like a hammer or bat caused an injury.

Here though, it is used metaphorically, comparing the imprecision of a blunt instrument with the precision of a sharp one.

So while they may work, they are crude and imprecise in their results, and may not be as targeted as one might hope.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.