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be in a cleft stick

To be in a problematic or difficult situation; to have only undesirable or unfavorable options from which to choose. The image is that of a snake being trapped with a V-shaped end of a stick. Primarily heard in UK, Australia. Well, we're 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 is really in a cleft stick.
See also: cleft, stick

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
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

be (or be caught) in a cleft stick

be in a difficult situation, when any action you take will have adverse consequences. chiefly British
Cleft is one of the forms of the past participle of cleave , in its basic meaning of ‘divide with a cutting blow’ or ‘split’. The other form still current in standard English is cloven , and the two words tend to be used in different contexts: we find a cleft stick and a cleft palate but a cloven hoof .
See also: cleft, stick
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

be (caught) in a cleft ˈstick

(informal) be in a difficult situation when any action you take will have bad results: I was in a cleft stick — my job was boring but I couldn’t move to another firm without losing my company pension.
See also: cleft, stick
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
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References in periodicals archive ?
"The vast majority of these children are from developing countries and many of them will never receive the reconstructive surgery and comprehensive cleft care they need to live full and productive lives," she says.
The results explain that there is a significant statistical difference for when surgeries for revision of lip nose clefts and secondary cleft palates are undertaken.
Sternal cleft is a rare anomaly of the chest wall (1).
Patients of facial clefts are brought for surgery later than the ideal surgical time which may be due to ignorance, poverty or unawareness about the fact that such anomaly can be corrected by surgery.
Smile Train India recently celebrated the completion of 500,000 free cleft surgeries across India through a strong partner network of over 300 doctors and 160 hospitals.
Long-term effects of nasoalveolar molding on three-dimensional nasal shape in unilateral clefts. Cleft Palate Craniofac J.
Genetics of nonsyndromic orofacial clefts. Cleft Palate-Craniofac J.
[10,23] There are a few cases of craniofacial clefts reported from Turkey; [24-27] moreover, only two papers reporting cases from Turkey that are accompanied by a simple lower lip defect.
The use of periosteum and Surgicel for bone restoration in congenital clefts of the maxilla.
While Hassen (9) did not excise the cleft edges in the lobule clefts, Zoltie (21) reported performing the excision leaving the apical part of the cleft intact, which would create a rectangular flap on the anterior and posterior edges of the cleft.
With the support of the large network of State mobile health teams and anganwadi workers at the grassroot level will enable Smile Train to reach out to every child born with cleft lip and palate in the State of Madhya Pradesh.
KARACHI -- A two-day free cleft lip and palate camp concluded here on Wednesday.
He came out of her womb with a gaping split in his face from lip to nose. Like many babies with cleft lip and palate in West Africa, Peter was deemed cursed.
Children with orofacial clefts and other craniofacial conditions often have impaired ability to feed and impaired language development, and might be at increased risk for a greater number of ear infections, hearing issues, and problems with their teeth.
In conjunction with the inconsistencies that exist regarding diagnosis of submucous clefts, debate remains regarding the optimal timing of surgical treatment, and a number of approaches have been reported.