put on the spot
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put (one) on the spot
To force one to do something instantaneously, often causing them unease or embarrassment. My kids always try to put me on the spot with requests, knowing that I'm less likely to turn them down in front of their friends' parents. When the boss put me on the spot in the meeting today, I wasn't prepared to answer his question and ended up babbling like a fool.
put someone on the spot
Fig. to ask someone forthright questions; to demand that someone produce as expected. Don't put me on the spot. I can't give you an instant answer. The boss put Bob on the spot and demanded that he do everything he had promised.
on the spot
Immediately, at once; also, in a very difficult situation. Both meanings are several hundred years old. “If once they get you on the spot you must be guilty of the plot,” wrote Jonathan Swift in 1723 (To Charles Ford, Esq.), clearly meaning a bad situation. To put someone on the spot, however, appears to be an American locution of the twentieth century, and in gangster slang meant marking someone for execution. The other meaning—at once or immediately—dates from the nineteenth century. “I couldn’t stand it, sir, at all, but up and kissed her on the spot,” wrote poet William Pitt Palmer (1805–84) in “The Smack in School.” This meaning also gave rise to Johnny-on-the-spot.