The Last Straw
What does this mean?
The Last Straw
What does this mean?
The idiom the straw that broke the camel’s back, alluding to the proverb “it is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back”, describes the seemingly minor or routine action which causes an unpredictably large and sudden reaction, because of the cumulative effect of small actions.
In Arabic is
القشة التي قسمت ظهر البعير
It is very popular saying in Arab culture
It means it is the final act before action must be taken.
So for example:
Your adult son is living in your home for free, having parties, smoking drugs, getting drunk, making the place a mess. You keep giving him chances to clean his act up. One day though, he has yet another party and destroys your kitchen.
Now you decide that he has to go. This is the final (last) straw.
It’s interesting because in Russian ‘the last straw’ has a different meaning - it is the last hope!
The word “straw” in English can mean several things.
“A drowning man catches at a straw.”
In this context, a straw means an useless thing.
clutch/grasp at straws
to try all possible means to find a solution or some hope in a difficult or unpleasant situation, even though this seems very unlikely
I know I’m just clutching at straws here, but is it possible that the doctors are wrong?
the last/final straw
the ˌstraw that breaks the camel’s ˈback
the last in a series of bad events, etc. that makes it impossible for you to accept a situation any longer
make bricks without straw
to try to work without the necessary material, money, information, etc.
a straw in the wind
a small sign of what might happen in the future
That’s all true, Yutaka. For example “clutching at straws” or “clutching at a straw” has a very similar sense to the Russian one.
But if we talk about “the last straw” then it has the meaning as Platyphylla says. So the all-important word here is “last”.
The definition he gave here:
‘the last in a series of bad events, etc. that makes it impossible for you to accept a situation any longer’
Pretty much sums it up too.
“the straw that breaks the camel’s back”
In this phrase, the modifier “the last” does not appear, but it is implied. After a series of bad events, even a small thing, which is meant by “straw”, matters. So the important word here is not only “last” but also “straw”.
This is my guess. “The anchor that breaks the camel’s back” could mean a different situation. Am I wrong?
‘straw’ doesn’t imply ‘small thing’. It implies any thing that contributes to the bad series of events.
The last/final straw is a saying in its own right, although it may be linked to ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ in terms of where the two saying originate from.
If I remember correctly there is an expression in Spanish “la gota que colmó el vaso” which would be the equivalent of our last straw here.
(I felt like adding the above example of “der Tropfen, der das Fass zum Überlaufen bringt” since we have gone quite international in this thread, in any case).
Edited thanks to ftornay’s comment below
“The straw that breaks a camel’s back” is a slightly different (set) phrase.
NB We are just trying to help you here. Of course, if you have a superior grasp of English idiom and usage than native speakers…well “bully for you” (to use a British idiom.)
The last straw (that broke the camel’s back)
The final additional small burden that makes the entirety of one’s difficulties unbearable.
Unfortunately, many of your ‘sources’ don’t reflect real life usage.
It’s NOT necessarily a ‘small’ thing. That is one definition, but it is not THE definition. Not according to real life usage of English.
But i’m sure you will disregard what i’m saying.
"It’s NOT necessarily a ‘small’ thing. "
Do you want to say that you does not necessarily associate the word “straw” in the phrase with a “small” thing, not to mention a straw on a camel’s back?
“It is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
“That’s the last straw.”
No, i want to say exactly what i said. The ‘straw’ doesn’t have to be a small thing, it can be a large thing, a big deal, a huge event, a mammoth fuck up by someone, a huge life changing occurrence.
In my example, the person who destroyed the kitchen could merely have left dishes all over the place with food encrusted onto them. He could equally have blown the house up. Both could be things that push his parents into kicking him out as the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back.’
“We are just trying to help you here.”
I always appreciate your comment.
As you seem to favour the use of dictionaries, I thought I’d add the definition found in the Cambridge learner’s dictionary:
the final/last straw
also the straw that breaks the camel’s back
C1- level word, advanced level
“The last in a series of unpleasant events that finally makes you feel that you cannot continue to accept a bad situation.”
Quite simply, the “last straw” means the last of a series of events or indignities that brings one beyond the point of endurance, ultimately serving as a catalyst for another action.
In the example given in the Cambridge Dictionary, being evicted is a huge thing and not merely a small burden easily brushed away; though verbal insults on the other hand, can generally be seen as far less serious.
If you think of the last straw as the last of a series of events bringing you beyond the point of endurance, you’ll be on the right track.
“Quite simply, the ‘last straw’ means the last of a series of events or indignities that brings one beyond the point of endurance, ultimately serving as a catalyst for another action.”
After a series of events, even an additional insignificant thing, which is the last straw, makes you beyond the point of endurance. I feel that this interpretation is most logical, although idioms might not be always used logically by natives.
A long time ago, when I wanted to pick up a piece of paper on the floor, I happened to feel a strong, strong pain in my lower back. After that, I couldn’t move for no less than seven days.
That goes without saying!
It can obviously be big or small ^^