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“Not a Leg to Stand On”: When Arguments Crumble

Imagine someone desperately trying to remain upright while missing a crucial body part – a leg! This comical image is the essence of the idiom “not a leg to stand on,” illustrating an argument or position that lacks any solid foundation. Let’s explore what this means and how to use it appropriately.

Meaning: Completely Unsupportable

When you say something “doesn’t have a leg to stand on,” you mean it’s utterly indefensible. This could be an obviously flimsy excuse, a poorly constructed theory, or a claim that completely lacks evidence. The expression implies a lack of stability and inevitable collapse.

Origins: A Visual Image

The idiom’s power likely comes from its humorous physicality. We easily visualize the impossibility of standing without the necessary limbs, translating that into a metaphor for a flimsy position that can’t hold up.

When to Use It

“Not a leg to stand on” is best suited for informal settings and adds a touch of playful judgment:

  • Everyday excuses: “My alarm didn’t go off? Nice try, but that excuse doesn’t have a leg to stand on.”
  • Unsubstantiated opinions: “They think that’s the best movie ever, but their argument doesn’t have a leg to stand on.”
  • Debates with friends: “You won’t change my mind – your point of view doesn’t have a leg to stand on.”

When to Avoid It

There are times when a more direct approach is better:

  • Professional settings: Opt for less figurative language in formal writing or discussions.
  • Serious topics: If someone faces real consequences, the idiom might seem insensitive.
  • Sensitive situations: If the goal is to persuade someone, offering direct evidence is more effective than this dismissive idiom.

Strengthen Your Stance

While “not a leg to stand on” is a colorful expression, sometimes the best approach is ditching the metaphor and directly explaining why a position is weak. Focus on clear logic and evidence – building a solid foundation for your own argument is far more convincing!


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<a href="https://englishpluspodcast.com/author/dannyballanowner/" target="_self">Danny Ballan</a>

Danny Ballan


Danny is a podcaster, teacher, and writer. He worked in educational technology for over a decade. He creates daily podcasts, online courses, educational videos, educational games, and he also writes poetry, novels and music.

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