To grasp at straws is to make desperate but futile attempts to escape from a problem. The image is of a drowning person wildly thrashing about trying to find something to keep afloat with, madly grasping even a wisp of straw which is plainly incapable of doing the job. “Grasping for straws” suggests that the person is deliberately trying to find straws rather than blindly grabbing them.

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Common Errors front cover