Source, 90% down the page: US TV series The Good Wife, Season 6, Episode 11, entitled 'Hail Mary'

Diane [Lockhart]: Your Honor, we have found the Brady violation, - and we ask -
Judge Cuesta: Oh, yes, you have your Brady violation - because you delayed me.
Diane: Uh, Your Honor, with respect, I did nothing of the kind. And we insist that you see this Brady violation.
Diane: Your Honor. I ask leave to approach?
Judge Cuesta: With great caution, Counselor. As you would a lion in a cage.

Am I right that Judge Cuesta really means: As you would [approach if you were] a lion in a cage? He warns Diane to mind warily what she wants to ask, after being permitted to approach the bench. Am I right that this is called an ellipsis? If so, which specific kind is it (as per the linked Wikipedia page)? Any other terms describing this issue? Anyhow, the ellipsis just seems too excessive here? Is it ungrammatical?

Context: Judge Cuesta foiled and returned to the court from a deceitful meeting with one of the Illinois Governor's staff about a spurious promotion to the Illinois Supreme Court. Now Cuesta thinks that lawyer Diane conspired in this scheme to stall while her legal team tried to find the 'smoking gun' to acquit her client, and one of the main characters, Cary Agos.

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    It is an ellipsis, but only of the verb approach: "as you would approach a lion in a cage". Lions and judges are dangerous and unpredictable beasts. Jan 20, 2015 at 2:21

2 Answers 2


Think of it as a continuation of the previous sentence, perhaps with slightly different punctuation (this seems like a transcript of speech, in which punctuation might be problematical).

"I ask leave to approach? Judge Cuesta: With great caution, Counselor. As you would a lion in a cage." -->

"[Approach] with great caution, Counselor, as you would a lion in a cage."

It is a somewhat humorous reply, but I'm not sure I'd term it ellipsis, as the verb is "borrowed" from the previous sentence.


It's not were you a lion in a cage. The judge is saying approach as you would approach a lion in a cage. In other words, a lion in a cage is a cornered and wild animal, therefore very dangerous. So, were to choose to approach a cage animal (particularly a dangerous one), you would be very careful. So, should you approach the bench.

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