Note: The origins for many phrases are so unclear, it's like trying to find something at the bottom of a muddy river! However, that's not the case for every phrase. Still, please note that most of what you will find for the origins of many phrases are popular theories that try to determine where a phrase came from, or from who. Keep in mind, though, that these are merely theories, and are not a 100% confirmation!
Additionally, the quotes you see often times come from old books, poems, newspapers, and so on. These quotes are used to give you, the reader, an idea on how far back in history some of these idioms go. Remember this also, if you see a quote from William Shakespeare and he's using some expression, it doesn't necessarily mean he's the guy that came up with it. Maybe he heard it from a friend or relative or heard of it somewhere else! Moreover, I do try to list the oldest recorded forms of a phrase that I can find, but there's always a possibility of an older recording existing that I'm unaware of.
Being in a dilemma where the only two available options are both unsatisfying or bad.
clear on where exactly this expression comes from, but some guess that it may come from
Arizona during financial panics that happened in the early 20th century.
According to The Phrase Finder, the earliest known recording of the idiom can be found in the
Dialect Notes V from the year 1921, where it reads:
"To be between a rock and a hard place, to be bankrupt. Common in Arizona in recent panics;
sporadic in California."
Judging by that quote, it looks as though the phrase originally meant to be bankrupt, where as today it means "facing a tough dilemma." The earliest writing I could find of the saying with its modern meaning comes from The Advertiser newspaper, January 1930, where it is written:
"After that we were between a rock and a hard place. There was a lot of unpleasantness with Mr.
Romanes, but by and by we see'd we couldn't do nothing by fighting each other, so we shared out
the grub, and took what we each thought was the best road off that damned mantelpiece."
* I'm between a rock and a hard place... on one hand I can go to the movies with my friends, or I can choose to go to dinner with my lovely girlfriend.
* Mariah found herself stuck between a rock and a hard place when she received a big dent to her car; she either had to spend the money and have it repaired, or drive around with an unsightly dent on her vehicle.