1

I read a sentence in a book, The Word Power Made Easy, which was

You are boastful to the point of being obnoxious - you have only one string to your conversational bow, namely, yourself; and on it you play a number of monotonous variations.

According to most of the sources online relating to the the idiom, the word bow means the archer's bow in this idiom but then why has the author of the sentence used "playing a number of monotonous variations" after the idiom (you don't play something through a bow). I am wondering if there is any sense of the word "bow" that relates to an instrument because it is through an instrument's string that something is played.

1

You have either a bad version of that book, or you have [or someone has] copied it badly, or you have misread it. The thing that has 'one string' is a (figurative) violin.

You are boastful to the point of being obnoxious—you have only one string to your conversational violin, namely, yourself; and on it you play a number of monotonous variations: what you think, what you have done, how good you are, how you would solve the problems of the world, etc. ad nauseam.

Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis (Google Books)

  • Mine must be a bad version of the original book. But I don't know how a book, which I think is a matter of copy-paste, can be misprinted. – Kelvin May 27 at 13:43
  • Copying and pasting can be done well, or badly. – Michael Harvey May 27 at 13:45
  • @Kelvin in your question, you didn't mention the book giving the erroneous definition, which it doesn't because the definition is correct and it makes sense, you said According to most of the sources online relating to the the idiom, the word bow means the "archer's bow" in this idiom – Mari-Lou A May 31 at 6:45
  • I think the OP didn't copy and paste the full definition in their question, they added the full stop. It's not the first time a learner cuts an original long sentence short, thinking it doesn't matter. – Mari-Lou A May 31 at 6:47
0

To "have more than one string to your bow" means, in this context, to have more than one skill or style. This indeed comes from archer's bow, which has a string that is pulled to shoot arrows. The idea is to have a spare component in case the main one fails.

Using this idiom with the variation "have only one string to your conversational violin" is a play on words, since a violin is a musical instrument that has strings, and is played with a bow. Here both "string" and "bow" have different meanings but the idea is similar - having only one string is being limited in what you can play or express.

This question has been asked before on another site.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.