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The New York Times (March 14) Fashion & Style column reports under the headline, “Walking the Walk to Increase Diversity” that Bethann Hardison, the fashion industry gadfly is to receive the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Founders Award in June, and comments “Most thorns get plucked. This one is getting a trophy. (I like this line)” It follows;

“She then became a modeling agent, founding Bethann Management in 1984. It was, she said, a “white agency,” but it also represented many models of color, among them Veronica Webb, Roshumba Williams and Tyson Beckford. When designers were disinclined to at least consider any but white models, she was inclined to press the point.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/fashion/Fashion-diversity-bethann-Hardison-diversity-coalition.html?hp&_r=0

OED carries “press the button,” meaning “pressing an acupressure point,” but not “press the point.”

CED carries “pressure point,” meaning “a place on the body where an artery is close to the surface of the skin, where it can be pressed to partly stop the flow of blood,” but not “press the point.”

Google N Gram shows the incidences of “press the point,” which peaked during 1920 through 1960, and has been tapering off to a low 0.0000054780% level (in 2007).

To me “press the point” is strongly associated with acupressure point because of the Asian familiarity with Chinese medicine, but what does it mean otherwise?

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1  
Granted, pressing the point is a bit more insistent than simply mentioning it. But lots of Anglophones are so keen to make sure you get the point that they will "hammer the point home". (And one of our own even went so far as to metaphorically countersink it last year! :) –  FumbleFingers Mar 17 at 1:20
    
Isn't this a military metaphor? Where the point is the spearhead of an army and you are contuing to push it forwarD? –  ArtB Mar 17 at 14:35

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Press the point in this case means:

Keep making an issue of this point.

or

Continue bringing this point to people's attention.

The point they are referring to is the hiring of non-white models. It is not a physical location, but rather a "talking point" or an issue that is being discussed.

It's point as in the expression, "Get to the point."

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3  
The point means the issue discussed. Press the point means to insist that the issue be discussed, even though others may not want to discuss them ("they were disinclined to consider" them). The key is the parallelism between inclined and disinclined. –  John Lawler Mar 17 at 1:18
    
What's your view on two other users' sport-related (e.g. tennis, fencing) interpretation? –  Yoichi Oishi Mar 17 at 21:23
    
@YoichiOishi In this case . . . not really applicable. It's a standard expression. Press a point. –  David M Mar 17 at 21:33

Webster's New World Dictionary, press, transitive verb

9. to lay stress on; be insistent about; emphasize

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It may also have come from sports. In tennis, a player may rush to the net to increase pressure on the opponent, trying to win the point. It means increasing the pressure in your efforts to win. So it implies a battle is being fought against opposing forces. Consider:

"Don't press your luck."
"Don't push it!"

It can also carry a connotation of lack of regard for politeness, since pushing "uncomfortable" issues when others are trying to avoid them is considered rude.

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It is a term used to describe the act of further inquiring in spite of social pressures not to do so.

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I get what you are saying, but what social pressures? It's usually resistance to answering a question, etc. Not outward pressure on the person pressing. –  David M Mar 17 at 12:15

I doubt if it has any connection to fighting with swords. Nevertheless, if one had either disarmed (literally or otherwise) an opponent, or had the point of one's foil nudging the opponent's sternum, it would be obvious that fight is over. If one wanted to make sure that the defeated opponent knew just how close he had come to becoming a statistic, one might 'press the point' of one's sword enough to cause a small loss of blood.

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I think pressing in fencing is just being more offensive overall, not when you poke them with the point. –  Oldcat Mar 17 at 19:35

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