between a rock and a hard place

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Originated in the United States before 1918 in southwest, possibly in connection with mining. Related to the concept of the Ancient Greeks: between Scylla and Charybdis.


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Prepositional phrase[edit]

between a rock and a hard place

  1. (idiomatic) In a difficult and inescapable position. [from early 20th c.]
    • 2008, David Merde, Beyond Final Arrangements, page 511:
      After meeting again that afternoon with Donna, Wilbur had advised her that she was indeed between a rock and a hard place. She could not hope to recover and build back the lost business until the suits were settled, and it appeared that the only way to settle the suits without going to court was to liquidate the mortuary assets or tap into the Clifton's personal funds.
    • 2017 March 3, Nintendo EPD, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo, description for Rock-Hard Food:
      A dish gone awry after adding the wrong ingredient. Chewing your way through this won't be fun, but it will fill you up when you're between a rock and a hard place.
  2. (idiomatic) Having the choice between two unpleasant or distasteful options; in a predicament or quandary.
    Synonyms: between Scylla and Charybdis, between the devil and the deep blue sea; see also Thesaurus:dilemma, Thesaurus:difficult situation
    • 1970, David Sim, Tangent:
      Husbands, it seems to me, are caught between the Rock of Feminism and the Hard Place of their own marriages []
    • 2008 September 11, Eric Dash, Geraldine Fabrikant, “Washington Mutual stock falls on investor fears”, in New York Times, retrieved 24 August 2012:
      If Washington Mutual needs to raise capital quickly, it will very likely find itself between a rock and a hard place, because credit markets have all but closed their doors to troubled banks.


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