BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, and BEYOND THE PALE: American English Idioms #14

Welcome to American English Idioms: Lesson 14. In this lesson you have 3 American English idioms to read, listen to, translate, and pronounce in English. Please focus and do your best so that you can learn and improve your knowledge of American English idioms. Don’t forget to use the comments section below to share your thoughts and what you’ve learned today.

Directions 1: Watch the video 2 or more times, and pay close attention to the audio and text.

Directions 2: Read the following text in English, then translate it using the translator on this page into your language if needed. When you finish, feel free to write a comment in the comments section below and let us know how you feel about what you’ve learned, as well as what you’ve learned.

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE facing two difficult outcomes for the same situation

1. Ralph found out that his brother cheated on an exam, and he knows he should tell the teacher, but he is hesitating because it’s his brother. He’s caught between a rock and a hard place.

2. The doctor told his patient that he had a very contagious disease and that it was important to tell his family. When the man refused, the doctor didn’t know whether he should call his patient’s family and tell them. He was between a rock and a hard place.

Synonym: between the devil and the deep blue sea

Compare to: in a bind/fix/jam; over a barrel; behind the eight ball Between a rock and a hard place is more dramatic than in a bind and would be used when the problem of choice has no apparent or easy solution.

BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA facing two difficult outcomes for the same situation

1. I consider both Paul and Mitch to be friends of mine. Now they are mad at each other and each wants me to take his side against the other. No matter what I do I could lose one friend or both. I’m between the devil and the deep blue sea.

2. Dana’s really between the devil and the deep blue sea. The boss wants her to lie about the financial state of the company. If she does, it would be unethical, but if she doesn’t, the boss might find a way to fire her.

Synonym: between a rock and a hard place

BEYOND THE PALE beyond or outside the limits of morally or socially acceptable behavior

1. That remark Jerry made wasn’t simply in poor taste. It was beyond the pale.

2. Ron received an invitation to dinner and didn’t have the decency to let his hosts know he wouldn’t be able to attend. I think that kind of behavior is beyond the pale.

The word pale in this expression should not be confused with the adjective meaning “colorless.” Here, pale means a region surrounded by a paling or fence and ruled by a governing body. In British history, the pale was the area in and around Dublin, Ireland, which was colonized and ruled by the English. Beyond the pale was anything outside this area. To the English, this was synonymous with being outside law and order, i.e. outside civilization.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *