be in a cleft stick

(redirected from been in a cleft stick)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Encyclopedia.
Related to been in a cleft stick: caught in a cleft stick

be in a cleft stick

To be in a problematic or difficult situation; to have 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 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

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

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