[Ads-l] between a rock and a hard place (1914)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat Oct 30 08:02:38 UTC 2021

Great work, Ben.
Here is a match in a newspaper article with an Atlanta, Georgia
dateline in 1915. The phrase was placed between quotation marks, and
the two key elements were permuted.

Date: August 13, 1915
Newspaper: Americus Times-Recorder (City Edition)
Newspaper Location: Americus, Georgia
Article: Governor Harris Has Puzzling Issue Presented To Him
Quote Page 1, Column 5
Database: GenealogyBank

[Begin excerpt]
(Special to Times-Recorder)
ATLANTA, Ga., Aug. 13.—Governor Nat E. Harris must be finding himself
today "between a hard place and a rock" if all the "pressure" that is
being talked about is really being brought to bear on him for and
opposing the inclusion of prohibition in the extra session call.
[End excerpt]

The inclusion of the word "and" might be a newspaper error.


On Sat, Oct 30, 2021 at 2:35 AM Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> OED3's earliest cite for the idiom "between a rock and a hard place" comes
> from a 1921 issue of Dialect Notes, which defined it as "to be bankrupt.
> Common in Arizona in recent panics; sporadic in California." The Phrase
> Finder site speculates that it originated in a 1917 dispute between copper
> mining companies and mineworkers in Bisbee, Arizona:
> https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place.html
> On the English Language & Usage Stack Exchange, KarlG finds that theory
> implausible, noting that the expression was used by an American soldier
> writing home from Europe in 1918:
> https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/32785/expression-caught-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place
> The soldier's letter (dated Nov. 9, 1918 from "somewhere in France") was
> published in a New Mexico newspaper:
> ---
> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/88021911/between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place/
> Mountainair (New Mex.) Independent, Dec 19, 1918, p. 8, col. 2
> Seeing from the papers, that we have the Central Power bunch between a rock
> and a hard place, I am afraid that the hard place will get harder than the
> rock if Fritz don’t wake up and get out while he is yet breathing.
> ---
> But it's possible to find it in use even earlier than that, as in this 1914
> item:
> ---
> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/88021863/between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place/
> Poteau (Okla.) Weekly Sun, Oct 1, 1914, p. 5, col. 1
> As an example of fine distinctions, a party of men were discussing the
> present situation of the German army this week. One remarked that the
> Germans were between the devil and the deep sea; while another corrected
> him by saying that the Germans were between the upper and nether stone. The
> third man whose name is Pillgreen and who works in the treasurer’s office
> simply remarked that the Germans were between a rock and a hard place.
> Here’s hoping that all three versions are in the main correct, so as to end
> the war.
> ---
> It's interesting that both the 1914 and 1918 examples relate to the
> fortunes of Germany and the Central Powers in World War I.
> --bgz
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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