in a cleft stick

(redirected from cleft stick)
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Related to cleft stick: lo and behold, like it or lump it, first and foremost

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.) 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: 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: stick