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What does writing the bill with a "double meat ax" mean?

I found the phrase double meat ax in today's Washington Post article, House approves dramatic cuts in federal spending in 235-189 vote, dealing with last night's House vote on drastic federal budget cuts.

I know the meaning of double ax as a double-bladed ax, but I don't know double meat ax, and why the phrase was used with quotation marks, which suggests the writer used the phrase with special implication. Can you tell me exactly what writing the bill with a "double meat ax" means? The text reads:

During the bleary-eyed final roll call at 4:35 a.m., 235 Republicans were joined by no Democrats in support of dramatic spending reductions that they said were needed to address a soaring annual deficit of $1.6 trillion; 189 Democrats—as well as three Republicans—opposed it, accusing Republicans of writing the bill with a "double meat ax."

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Going after something "with a meat axe" means going at it very crudely and vigorously, with an intention to do great damage. To call it here a "double meat axe" means the Republicans intend to cut the budget drastically, without looking at any of the particulars very closely.

Should your doctor ever diagnose you with a pre-cancerous mole or a cyst, and then suggest a surgeon should attack it "with a meat axe," it would be a good idea to find another doctor.

Oh, and this would be a good time to compare the statement with the expression you taught me: 鶏を割くに牛刀を用いる (to cut a chicken with a butcher's knife).

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Robusto-san. Thank you for your kind and quick answer as always. I know both words of ‘double ax’ and ‘meat ax,’ but I heard the word ‘double meat ax’ for the first time. Is it a compositive word of ‘double ax’ and ‘meat ax,’ meaning a drastic chop of budget – 大なたを振るう- a counterpart in Japanese? –  Yoichi Oishi Feb 20 '11 at 0:26
    
Robusto-san. By a compositive word, I mean a compositive word coined by the writer, or it's a well-worn word? –  Yoichi Oishi Feb 20 '11 at 0:39
    
Oishi-san: To use a "meat axe" on something is a familiar expression in English. It's not original with the writer. –  Robusto Feb 20 '11 at 0:46
    
And it doesn't have anything to do with "double axe" ... It's "double" plus "meat axe". –  Robusto Feb 20 '11 at 0:48
    
Thanks. Robusto-san. –  Yoichi Oishi Feb 20 '11 at 1:01

Wow, that is some bad writing. "With a meat-axe" is a cliché (I almost wrote "a tired cliché", which would be quite autological) and the writer tried, and failed, to enliven it by adding "double" (from "double-bladed axe", but there's no such thing as a double-bladed meat-axe). Then depressed by his failure there (or elated by a false sense of success), he proceeded to mix the metaphor in with "write".

The takeaway in this is, when you find yourself using a cliché, just stop. Express yourself in some entirely different (ideally metaphor-free) way. Do not try to "freshen" the phrase, "spice it up", "put a new spin on it". You'd just be flogging a dead, uh, Clydesdale...

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Two answers don't seem to be consistent. Is there any other opinions about appropreateness of the word 'double meat axe'? –  Yoichi Oishi Feb 20 '11 at 9:41

A meat axe is the double-handed blade slaughtermen use to hack carcasses in half, so probably the least subtle tool in existence. So far, so good (though rather a tired metaphor). But there's no such thing as a double meat axe, and "write" just turns it from a metaphor into a blurred simile. So no, I can't tell you exactly what the phrase means, and I don't believe anybody else can either: certainly not the original writer.

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