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Some straitjacket

Posted by Smokey Stover on June 25, 2007

In Reply to: Some straitjacket posted by Ali Kahrobaie on June 25, 2007

: What is the meaning of this expression: "Some straitjacket!"

Without any context given, I'll have to invent one. Speaker or writer 1: "These conditions, if accepted, would place my client in a straitjacket, hampering any freedom he might have to improve conditions / make a profit / see his children [take your pick]." Speaker or writer 2: " Some straitjacket! The conditions imposed on your client are less onerous than on anyone else in the free world." The two-word phrase is a shortened form of "That is some straitjacket!"

"In a straitjacket" is, of course, a well-known metaphor meaning unduly restricted or hampered. If there is any idiomatic trick to this expression, it is the way "Some" is used--here, as a scornful comment on the exaggeration expressed by a previous speaker or in a previous situation. It can also be used less negatively. "They are offering three free for the price of one. Now that's some deal!" In these and other examples, it calls attention, sometimes ironically, to the noun to which "some" refers. The definition of the Oxford English Dictionary is not entirely transparent, but here it is.

"[Some:] f. Quite a; a remarkable. Used meiotically, often ironically, to suggest that something or someone is worthy of consideration." The examples given by the OED go back to 1808, and include this one by Winston Churchill (from The Unrelenting Struggle, 1942, p.345): "When I warned them [sc. the French Government] that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their Generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet: 'In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.' Some chicken! Some neck!"

Following the suggestion of the OED, you would read your example as "That's quite a straitjacket!" or "That's a remarkable straitjacket!" By itself this does not convey the contempt intended by "Some straitjacket!" and illustrates the difficulty of giving a short definition of this use of "some" which also conveys the tone intended. That's because you always need to know the particular antecedent of the phrase in which "some" is used.

Meiosis is a form of understatement, a figure of speech describing something as smaller or less important than it really is, often for ironic purpose. The OED gives examples as far back as 1550; here's a later one.

" 1970 'A. CROSS' Poetic Justice i. 17 The head of the Graduate English Department, a man for whom..the term 'longsuffering' was meiosis."

I don't think you need to understand meiosis to use and understand this usage of "some." I'll take the liberty of inventing another example for you. She: "How was your day, honey?" He: "I had some day! Let me tell you about it." In this instance, "Quite a day!" is a good substitute.