I can tell you firsthand that we are dealing with a regime that is not being forthright and will seize upon the faintest whiff of trepidation.

I am having a hard time understanding the bold part of the sentence. "Seize upon something" according to Longman "to suddenly become very interested in an idea, excuse, what someone says etc" I don't get it in that context.

  • This is from House of Cards, Season 2 : Episode 5 (Ch. 18) – John B Sep 28 '15 at 21:55
  • So, let's look at the definition: oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/seize. See (phrasal verb). It takes an object, which gets exploited, or taken advantage of. Clearer? – Victor Bazarov Sep 28 '15 at 21:59
  • "... a regime that is not being direct/honest, and will eagerly exploit even a small sign of weakness." – Victor Bazarov Sep 28 '15 at 22:00
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    From the limited context of this one sentence, my understanding is: if we (or some third party perhaps) appear even slightly anxious or fearful, the secretive/deceitful regime will notice (and presumably take some unwanted action). – John B Sep 28 '15 at 22:58
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    @GhaithAlrestom- exactly so. Therefore the regime will eagerly exploit anything that, even in the smallest way possible, might be construed as a feeling of fear or anxiety about something that might happen. – Jim Sep 28 '15 at 22:59

This definition, for "seize upon" rather than just "seize," best captures the meaning in this context. To "seize upon" something often means to exploit a weakness, rather than to physically "seize" something. ("Often," because one could say he "seized upon the rope," as in one of the other dictionary examples that crops up. But very frequently one would simply say that he "seized the rope," but that she "seized upon his fear of being alone," or "seized upon her opponent's lack of confidence," etc.)


Seize, here, means to notice or observe something, focus attention on it, and make rapid decisions or conclusions based upon that observation.

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