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Double-edged sword

Posted by Barry McMurdock on November 10, 2005

In Reply to: Double-edged sword posted by David FG on November 10, 2005

: : : : : : 'Double-edged sword' - I've read various explanations as to the meaning of this idiom and of its origin, but I am of the opinion that the common understanding must be a corruption of any sensible meaning. As a method of using metaphor well, one should always create a mental image, and it is clear to me that having a double-edged sword in my hand allows a telling blow in two directions and is therefore a double advantage of harm:harm over a single-edged sword, not one producing the potential for opposite results i.e. harm:heal. We use the idiom 'mixed blessing' to identify something which has benefits and drawbacks concurrently, and I would like to persuade all to use this and make the use of 'double-edged sword' to mean 'two ways to be effective' I would also like many of the people who use words like 'enervate' and 'hoi polloi' together with all the other words which are assumed to mean one thing by presumed root or sound, but which mean the opposite, to look them !
: : : : : : up in a dictionary!

: : : : : You point about the sword is probably well-taken; unfortunately, hoi polloi won't listen.

: : : : It cuts both ways.

: : : During the Watergate era, I saw a political cartoon of Richard M. Nixon cutting off someone's head (maybe Archibald Cox?) with a sword. An aide warned "Sir! The backswing!" as the sword came around to cut off Nixon's own head. It was obviously a double-edged sword.

: : :RRC and ESC you appear to be explaining 'Cuts both ways' well enough, but in that instance, I'm not picturing a big, heavy sword - RRC, you're working your imagination too hard, I think, to consider that a victim of one brandishing such a weapon has much chance to grab it and turn it back upon the attacker - however, you're image, as described, is of a knife held up close, and I believe this to be a different case altogether. I still contend that the double-edged sword is much more a double-whammy than a mixed blessing!
: : ....and Brian, I concede that all things are possible in cartoons!

: I have to disagree. In my opinion, for what it is worth, a 'double-edged sword' (as has been said) is one that is just as capable of inflicting damage on the user as on the one it is used against.


David FG.....but why? How, in the normal way of things, is it as easy to inflict harm on an assailant holding a double-edged sword, with his own sword, as it is for the assailant to harm you?
I can imagine a weapon which would fit the bill - a six foot stick, sharpened at each end, where, to make the metaphor work well, the two parties would start in a position of holding an end each - tug-of-war style. However, I am sure the lack of the reality of this weapon is because of the potential for harm to the owner, when in such use. Give me a double-edged sword any day!