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.

Example:

Some say 19 is too young to have a baby, but where do you draw the line?

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by Hugo, FumbleFingers, Matt Эллен, Kristina Lopez, MετάEd Apr 27 '13 at 3:04

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.

    
    
Onelook.com is a useful website for looking words and phrases up because it searches many dictionaries. For example, try this: onelook.com/?w=draw+the+line&ls=a –  Hugo Apr 26 '13 at 18:53
    
When looking for somewhere to put down a marker, an awful lot of people draw a line in the sand. But I think this question is General Reference for ELU. –  FumbleFingers Apr 26 '13 at 19:51
    
We have to set a limit somewhere. –  Andrew Leach Apr 26 '13 at 19:52
    
draw the line –  Matt Эллен Apr 26 '13 at 21:06
add comment

2 Answers 2

Where do you draw the line means, in this context, where do you personally think that this is unacceptable. The term, even though it implies a personal opinion, can be implied to suggest that it is a collective idea.

share|improve this answer
    
+1. Where do you draw the line is a standard idiom in English. –  Matt Apr 26 '13 at 19:10
add comment

"Where do you draw the line?" asks what is the dividing point between acceptability and non-acceptability when the issue being discussed can be viewed as a matter of degree. Murder is not a matter of degree. There is no place to "draw the line." It is never acceptable. It is a "black and white" issue. At what age to have a baby can be seen as a matter of degree. It is debatable whether it is acceptable to have a baby at any given age. Most people in a given society would agree that at some given age, let's say for example, 30, it's entirely acceptable, and at some given age, let's say for example, 12, it's entirely unacceptable. Between these two numbers, the level of agreement will vary. At 15, a few more people might agree that it's acceptable, or at least more acceptable than at 12. At 21, a few more people might think it's less acceptable than at 30. So it's a matter of degree, and we can reasonably ask, where do you draw the line?

So you can see that what we are really doing is starting with a personally directed question (where do you draw the line?), but actually asking something much bigger. Really it means, where should we, as a society, place the dividing point between acceptability and non-acceptability (for the given issue)?

Societies do, in fact, draw such lines for many particular issues, such as the age at which we allow people to drive. Whatever the age at which people can obtain a driver's license in a given state, that is the age at which the people of that state have agreed to draw the line.

share|improve this answer
add comment

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