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
The term ‘between a rock and a hard place’ is used to describe the position of someone who has no other options than to choose between two bad alternatives. The phrase originates from the game of rock-paper-scissors, where if one player chooses rock, then the other player can choose paper or scissors. If one player chooses paper, then the other player must also chose paper – there is no escape.
Facing two difficult outcomes for the same situation can be “between a rock and a hard place.” When faced with this situation, one might feel like they are stuck between two tough options that both seem undesirable.
When faced with two difficult outcomes, the individual is faced with an impossible situation, BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE. For example, if a student has applied for two scholarships and received an acceptance from both scholarships but does not have enough financial aid to pay tuition. This student would be in a hard place because one scholarship would cancel out the other scholarship. The student would have to choose which scholarship was more important to them.
BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA
The phrase “between a devil and a deep blue sea” can be interpreted as two difficult choices for the same situation. It is typically used when a person has to choose between two equally undesirable outcomes. In this case, between working long hours or being demotivated at work.
Between the devil and the deep blue sea is a uniquely difficult circumstance, where two bad options are faced. The Pacific ocean is an excellent example of this. On one hand, the Pacific ocean has some of the most dynamic and dramatic life forms on this planet, which are rapidly becoming extinct due to pollution, overfishing, and other environmental factors.
Being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea can be a complicated situation. Imagine being in a rock-climbing competition with a low chance of victory at both the national and international level, but a slim chance of victory at one. How does this person choose to play their cards? Clearly they have two difficult decisions to make. They have to weigh these options against each other and try to determine which would give them the best chance of success.
BEYOND THE PALE
Beyond the pale is a term used in medieval England to describe the border of English territory. This is where Scots and Welsh people were not allowed and it was said that if they went beyond this border, they would be “beyond the pale”. The phrase has since been adapted to refer to any behavior that shows signs of abnormality, including morally or socially unacceptable behavior. The term goes back to Latin palus, meaning stake.
BEYOND THE PALE is an expression of the limits of morally or socially acceptable behavior. The term first applied to the British Pale, a strip on the island of Ireland outside which English law was not enforced. Eventually, it became used for any frontier or beyond social limits.
Beyond the Pale is a phrase used to signify departure from moral or social conventions. Beyond the pale signifies all that is not of the norm or accepted in society, this can be illustrated best by the phrase’s use within literature of the nineteenth century, an era renowned for its adherence to moral and societal norms. The lack of decorum displayed in some aspects of life during this era was generally frowned upon, with only an elite few being allowed to speak on societal ills.