in a cleft stick

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in a cleft stick

In a problematic or difficult situation; having only undesirable or unfavorable options from which to choose. (From the image of being wedged into a crack in a stick, unable to move.) Primarily heard in UK, Australia. Well, we're caught in a cleft stick now! Do we start pushing the car towards town, or hope that someone passes by with a can of petrol? With such unlikable candidates, the public has been left in a cleft stick.
See also: cleft, stick

in a cleft stick

BRITISH, OLD-FASHIONED
If you are in a cleft stick, you are in a difficult situation which you cannot solve easily. I'm in something of a cleft stick — whatever I do, I'll upset someone. Note: This expression may refer to the practice of trapping snakes by holding them down behind the head with a cleft stick (= stick that is Y-shaped at the end).
See also: cleft, stick
References in periodicals archive ?
ITV is caught in the cleft stick of a (declining) ad market and a completely protected BBC," opines former head of Channel Five David Elstein.
Here the section on the status of the 'stranger' is especially useful, although the narrative does not lead to new conclusions about the position of the Italian aliens in the country, or the representatives of other nations for that matter, who found themselves in a cleft stick between popular xenophobia and aristocratic or humanist interest.
We are at a little bit of a cleft stick in relation to dates as midsummer is difficult from the hotel standpoint as there are conferences here.
However, you're in a cleft stick and you can only put up with the situation.
I can't do gags about chasing girls and sex for much longer, otherwise I'll be in the same cleft stick as poor Benny Hill, growing old and still talking about the same subjects.
Although they are caught in a cleft stick, they are applying sound priorities and an element of fairness to the decisions they are being forced to make.
Tony Blair is hanging on in office long enough to attend the signing of the illegally resuscitated treaty, thereby placing Gordon Brown in a cleft stick, since Labour has promised a referendum on it and if Mr Brown is forced to hold one, he will lose it.
Some 25-1 was salted away early, only for an exhausted runner to arrive from Shropshire, cleft stick clenched between teeth, with the news that Henry Daly had undergone an 11th-hour change of heart and was going to run Palarshan in the race.
Best not to transfer your savings for the time being; it seems that your husband feels in a cleft stick, as it is, due to the guilt trip that seems to have been imposed on him.
They have created a cleft stick from which there is no escape.
You seem caught in a cleft stick - you can't bear to see them as they are but, at the same time, suffer deep guilt for wanting it all to end.
The FA commission was in a cleft stick over Suarez.
Rural dwellers in Wales are in a cleft stick where public transport is concerned, whether bus, train, or coach.
I mean, when I started in journalism I hand wrote my copy and someone took it to the office in a cleft stick.
1): a runner delivers to Mr Brocklebank an epistle on cleft stick from The Liverpool Culture Company.