After reading this sentence:

A near-decade of two simultaneous foreign wars, topped off by the most brutal recession in two generations, has left federal and state budgets reeling.

I was left wondering about the meaning that was intended to be given by "reeling" in the sentence. From the definitions in Google, I don't know which one to choose (1 and 2 don't seem to apply):

  1. Lose one's balance and stagger or lurch violently

  2. Feel very giddy, disoriented, or bewildered, typically as a result of an unexpected setback

  3. Walk in a staggering or lurching manner, esp. while drunk

  • 3
    Look behind Door #2.
    – Robusto
    Aug 13 '12 at 15:59
  • There's not much difference among those. They all refer to being off balance and at risk of falling over. For a budget it's metaphorical. Nothing like the idea of reeling in a fish or some of the other meanings. Aug 13 '12 at 16:03
  • Yeah, I think you're looking too closely at a metaphor. The budgets are messed up, that's all it meant. Aug 13 '12 at 17:48
  • It's a metaphor. You're not literally reeling, losing your physical balance, but losing your mental balance.
    – Mitch
    Aug 13 '12 at 20:48
  • Metaphors that personify inanimate objects are quite bad to read. It's just another way of unnecessarily exagerating, without providing anything resembling fact. It's not beautiful, like shakespeare's flowery language, it's plain ugly. Typical of news style reporting. Throw several semi-witty crunched phrases together to form a sentence. What do you get?..garbage.
    – Chris
    Aug 13 '12 at 22:58

All of those give a good sense of the meaning. If you imagine a runner going towards a goal, who hits a barrier he didn't see, he'd be knocked back and stagger around a little.

At that point he'd be said to be reeling from the setback, instead of heading towards his goal.

  • This is an example of the TIME is MOTION Metaphor Theme. So terms about walking, running, travelling, speeding, rising, falling, and reeling from side to side are all fair game. Aug 13 '12 at 17:09

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