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In the following context:

I'm clutching at straws here. I'm trying to imagine how a woman could fail to be offended by being called a "hole".

What's meant by "clutching at straws"?

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closed as general reference by simchona, Jasper Loy, J.R., Carlo_R., jwpat7 Jul 22 '12 at 6:46

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.

    
Also, 'grasping at straws' is another way to say it. –  Mitch Jul 21 '12 at 23:40
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From the well-worn and time-honoured usage - A drowning man will clutch at a straw. –  Autoresponder Jul 21 '12 at 23:46
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4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

imagine that you are about to fall. imagine that you grab / grasp / clutch at a bunch of straws to avoid falling. it is a desperate move, because the straws will never be able to hold your weight and you know it, but do it regardless (because it is your last hope).

the expression above could be translated as:

"i cannot understand how a woman who is called a 'hole' (anus or vagina) is not offended (by being reduced to a mere sexual toy)"

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It means “looking for a way to do something which is actually hopeless and unattainable”. Like trying to stop yourself from falling by grabbing onto something that’s not going to hold your weight.

Often, it’s used to describe taking an untenable position in a discussion – trying to justify something by coming up with propositions that just don’t make sense.

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Thank you to @Vitaly for helping with the mental image. –  user16269 Jul 21 '12 at 23:40
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It means “grasping at straws”, which is the more common variation on the idiom. From the linked source:

to depend on something that is useless
to make a futile attempt at something
trying to find some way to succeed when nothing you choose is likely to work
trying to find reasons to feel hopeful about a bad situation

According to this page, the idiom originated with Thomas More’s Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation (1534).

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That's strange, I don't think I've ever heard "grasping" in use, only "clutching". Maybe it's a British thing. –  DisgruntledGoat Jul 22 '12 at 13:42
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It indicates desperation. A drowning man will clutch/grab at anything, even at straws (this is the (older?) usage that means 'dry grass' not drinking straws) in an attempt to save himself. I have no idea what @tony gil is talking about incidentally. :-)

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