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To make a case

Posted by David FG on July 23, 2006

In Reply to: To make a case posted by Smokey Stover on July 23, 2006

: : : What is the meaning of the phrase "to make a case"? For example: "to make a case for approval"...

: : In forensics (debate), the case for something is the combination of arguments that support that something. This is also one of the meanings in a court of law, as in the case for acquittal or the case for conviction. The use of "case" for "body of arguments, or reasons" goes back (in print) to the 14th century. The phrase "make the case" I was unable to discover in a brief search of the Oxford English Dictionary (which would have given me a date of first use in print), although I found "make out a case," which means the same thing.

: : OED: " d. The case as presented or 'put' to the Court by one of the parties in a suit; hence, the sum of the grounds on which he rests his claim. Also fig. as in to make out one's case, a case.
: : [1375 BARBOUR Bruce I. 52 And othir sum nyt all that cass And said that he thair king suld be That war in als ner degre.]... MRS. C. CLARKE Shaks. Char. xvi. 391 Shakespeare has made out a strong case for Shylock....."

: : The use of "case" in this sense has carried over into ordinary English.
: : SS

: Where I said "in print," read "in writing." People weren't printing in the 14th century.
: Also, if you've been watching television, you've no doubt become accustomed to a single meaning of forensics, or forensic investigation, forensic dentistry, forensic medicine and the like. They refer to investigation, medical, dental or other, in the service of law enforcement and the courts. The connection with debate is beling lost in the language. Debate societies, like the Oxfor Union, are sometimes still called forensic societies. B

: Both uses come originally from the word "forum," that place where men wearing togas would mill around arguing with each other. Regardless of the details of the history of the word, forensic still means related to argumentation.

: Another interesting use of the word "case" is the expression, "get off my case!" The meaning is clear and pretty much universally understood, thatis, "Leave me alone." But why? Perhaps it started with the expression, "on the case." These examples may be useful.

: "get on someone's case - to criticize someone in an annoying way for something that they have done. I told him very straightforwardly that the problem had already been dealt with and he was to get off my case. (= stop criticizing me)
: ...
: get off someone's case
: to stop criticizing and annoying someone. They think he was trying to cheat them, so they're not going to get off his case."

: What exactly does case mean here? No doubt, situation, with emphasis on arguably incorrect behavior--a variety, I imagine, of the case at law, but very informally considered.

: This source also mentions the obvious synonym for "get off my case," namely, "get off my back."

: The quotations are from The Free Dictionary,

: case

: SS

: Related vocabulary: get someone off your back

I would like to congratulate Smokey on his use of the word 'forensic'.

It's current, almost universal, misuse is one of my personal betes noires.


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