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
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
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References in periodicals archive ?
This is rather a comforting conclusion, in the sense that it is what we might predict from basic principles: a place where the system is confused is becoming rather more regularized with the regular verb forms taking over from irregular ones, and the irregular ones becoming specialized, often in rather fixed expressions such as cleft plate, cleft chin, cleft stick, cloven hoof.
ITalk about a man caught in a cleft stick. The arch-betrayer and the necessary agent of salvation.
In Keresley End we are really in a cleft stick as part of the village is Coventry and another part is Nuneaton and Bedworth.
The club, in a cleft stick, has put a brave face on having to temporarily trash the name which it has so proudly worn since 1882 in order to indulge the whim of meddling politicians.
GODOLPHIN find themselves in a cleft stick in their ambition to bring back the star names illegally doped with anabolic steroids.
Cllr Brian Cossey said Conwy was in a "cleft stick" and it would be difficult to vote to demolish something which had been in his "back garden" for 60 years.
Living in Africa, ever since we moved away from having a loin-clothed runner deliver correspondence in a cleft stick (the lions did eat a few, it's true) we have had problems with postal delivery.
The second housing problem is also encountered by the young career-oriented Bahraini couples who are caught in a cleft stick because even substantial combined salaries don't meet the very limited bank lending criteria on mortgage offers to buy any new property.
Hodgson said: "If we don't throw them in then, we don't have the players with experience, so it is a cleft stick. You lose, lose.
"If we don't throw them in then we don't have the players with experience to play the games so it is a cleft stick at the end of the day.
The BJP is now caught in a political cleft stick. If it invites its crowd- puller Modi for campaigning, it will further strain its alliance.
He said: "Britain and the US are in a cleft stick. If, as is likely, Karzai emerges as president they will have to deal with him, but the less authoritative he is the more Washington and London's commitment will seem misplaced."
"Defra are in a bit of a cleft stick if they are getting left with pounds 3.3m of stock.
"Whilst 'unapproved' employee share options continue to be popular with growing companies who want to recruit and retain talented staff they have now become a cleft stick for employees whose share options are due to mature."