fall between two stools

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fall between two stools

  1. (idiomatic, of tasks, issues, problems) To fit into neither of two categories and, hence, be neglected or fail.
  2. (idiomatic) To attempt two roles and fail at both, when either could have been accomplished singly.
    • 1857, Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers, The Century Co. (1902), page 252:
      [] She [Dido] could not bear to lose the land she had got by a swindle; and then she could not bear the loss of her lover. So she fell between two stools. []
    • 1910, Sydney Humphries, Oriental Carpets, Runners and Rugs and Some Jacquard Reproductions, READ BOOKS (2010), →ISBN, page 22:
      Failing to get rid of the old love [Medea] before taking on the new—in other words, wasting his strength over a new and untried method before having fully established the old—he [Jason] fell between two stools.
    • 1929, Charles Howard Ellis, The Origin, Structure & Working of the League of Nations, The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. (2004), →ISBN, page 153:
      The Council, by trying to combine its functions as the responsible executive of the League with some of the representative attributes of the Assembly, has to some extent fallen between two stools, and gives the impression of not being certain of its rôle.
    • 2003, Chris Jones, The Guerilla[sic] Film Makers Movie Blueprint, Continuum International Publishing Group, →ISBN, page 21:
      As your chances of mega-success increase so do your chances of falling between two stools, and if you get it wrong, you could end up with a dog’s dinner that satisfies no one.