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Straw man

Posted by Word Camel on April 01, 2002

All this talk of Druids has got me thinking about the phrase, to set up a straw man, meaning to attribute a position to someone that he doesn't hold and then to refute it in order to make it seem as if one has won the argument.

I was thinking of the practice of burning a straw man on Guy Fawkes night - which I understand is the sort of echo of Druidic harvest rituals. I also wondered about using straw men to practice combat with or using a straw man for a decoy.

Who was the straw man? Where does the phrase come from?