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caught between a rock and a hard place

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by aridra, Apr 10, 2006.

  1. aridra Junior Member

    Switzerland
    India
    Hello!
    Is there a French equivalent to the English expression "To choose between a rock and a hard place" to indicate having to choose between two equally difficult options?
    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. zaby

    zaby Senior Member

    Hello,

    We have "Choisir entre la peste et le choléra. "
    ("To choose between plague and cholera" yuh :( )
     
  3. Cavatine Senior Member

    Paris
    French - France
    We have an expression coming from Corneille's theater: "un choix cornélien", a hard choice above all between feelings and reason.

    Hope it helps
     
  4. edwingill Senior Member

    England English
    i thought the expression is:caught between a rock and a hard place pris entre le marteau et l'enclume
     
  5. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    I'm not a native English-speaker but I had never heard 'choose ...' either.
    être entre le marteau et l'enclume = to be between the devil and the deep blue sea, isn't it? I'm getting lost. :confused: :eek:
     
  6. aridra Junior Member

    Switzerland
    India
    oops!! Of course you are correct :) Excuse my senility :)

    Thanks to the others for the help.
     
  7. edwingill Senior Member

    England English
    what is the difference between to be between the devil and the deep blue sea and caught between a rock and a hard place?
     
  8. marget Senior Member

    For me, the only difference is that you are in one spot and you're caught in the other...Ha!;) I suspect that Americans, maybe especially younger ones, would prefer the rock and the hard place. I think they would be more familiar with it. It's just a guess.
     
  9. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    Thanks, I've just realized that I had always misunderstood the French expression.. I didn't have the impression it had anything to do with a dilemma but just with a difficult and dangerous situation. I'll try to sort that out.
     
  10. zaby

    zaby Senior Member

    I don't think you misunderstood the French expression. I understand it like you and we're not alone : I googled it and found only contexts where it does mean that.
    Actually, physically been between the hammer and the anvil is not a situation where you have (even poor) choice. It hurts :)
     
  11. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    So, 'être entre l'enclume et le marteau' wouldn't be a good translation then?
    In my dictionary I have: 'to be between a rock and a hard place': être pris dans un dilemme'
    and 'être entre l'enclume et le marteau' = 'to be between the devil and the deep blue sea'.
    Maybe we'll finally get somewhere :) (or maybe it's getting worse. Or maybe I should buy a better dictionary :D (it's getting old now))
     
  12. zaby

    zaby Senior Member

  13. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    Oui, il y a toujours cette expression 'tomber de Charybde en Scylla' qui vient se mélanger dans mon esprit (il faudra vraiment que j'y fasse du tri).
     
  14. edwingill Senior Member

    England English
    Oxford Dictionary definitions: caught between a rock and a hard place = faced with two difficult alternatives. to be between the devil and the deep blue sea = caught in a dilemma
    Another possibility which does not have literary elegance =être confronté à un choix impossible. By the way Sophie's choice has been adopted as an expression in English
     
  15. zaby

    zaby Senior Member

    Oh nooon je ne la connaissais pas celle-là. De toute façon elle est trop dure à écrire. :D

    I've already heard "faire le choix de Sophie" in France too but it's rarely used.
     
  16. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod

    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    Wah, I knew 'K's choice' :D but I had never heard of 'Sophie's choice' or 'le choix de Sophie': on en apprend tous les jours! :)
     
  17. CARNESECCHI Senior Member

    Auvergne
    French / France
    Hello,
    Juste une petite remarque pour ne pas se mélanger les pinceaux "Tomber de Charybde en Scylla" signifie sortir d'une situation difficile pour tomber dans une autre plus difficile encore. Y'a pas le choix!
    Charybde et Scylla sont deux monstres marins dont on parle dans l'Odyssée :
    http://perso.wanadoo.fr/mon.bateau/odyssee/charybde1.htm
    Hope it helps!
     
  18. danielle_davout Senior Member

    Centrafrique
    french
    on peut dire en anglais faced with/ between 2 alternatives sans provoquer des foudres ?

    Il n'y a jamais qu'une alternative composée de deux éléments entre lesquels il faut se décider.
    S'il ne reste qu'un parti à prendre, il n'y a pas d'alternative.
    l'alternative elle-même est l'option entre deux issues, deux moyens
    etc.
    et 2 X 2 = 4
     
  19. MissEliott Senior Member

    French
    être pris entre deux eaux...?
     
  20. FannyB Senior Member

    Paris
    English & French
    Good point, I think.
    AFAIC the three phrases are not equivalent.
    Caught between a rock and a hard place means you're in a very awkward situation, whichever way you turn. In French you'd say pris dans un dilemme or en tenailles.
    Between the devil and the deep blue sea (sic) refers to an impossible choice, in French choisir entre la peste et le choléra.
    Out of the frying pan into the fire implies an evolving situation : while trying to escape one danger you find yourself in even greater peril, in French tomber de Charybde en Scylla.

    entre deux eaux is different AFAIK, the phrase would be nager entre deux eaux which reminds me of the English phrase to sit on the fence ie refusing to take sides.
     
  21. catheng Senior Member

    France; Français
    être pris entre deux feux can be heard in French
     
  22. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo

    When I visited Jordan I was told that the current geopolitics of their region leaves people in that country feeling that they are "caught between Iraq and a hard place." :D

    (NB In AE Iraq is usually pronounced to rhyme with "rock")
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2009
  23. FannyB Senior Member

    Paris
    English & French
    Tout à fait, catheng, à rapprocher IMO de pris en tenailles.
    wildan1, iffy situation no doubt but good pun, pat example of French humour noir.
     
  24. Chris' Spokesperson Senior Member

    Paris
    English - Ireland
    Hahahaha, cela c'est formidable !
     
  25. finaud Senior Member

    english
    I think to sit on the fence is 'menager la chevre et le chou but that is not being in a dilema, but rather refusing to take either side in a situation. I think it emphasizes your indecisiveness (or even opportunism) rather than the dificulty in the choices.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2009
  26. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    Another English expression is "damned if you do and damned if you don't" = condamné, n'importe laquelle des deux options on choisit.

    I vote that it's time we buried that old chestnut about the "real" meaning of alternative. We all know that in everyday speech one can have two or three or more alternatives, and nobody ever misunderstands it. Latin etymology be damned!
     
  27. Kitcitwapien

    Kitcitwapien Senior Member

    Québec (Abitibi)
    Français - Québec
    Le filon n'est pas épuisé: coincé entre l'arbre et l'écorce. Et pour les latinistes, a fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi (devant le précipice, derrière les loups)
     

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