Now, the VOA Special English program Words and Their Stories.
Making choices is necessary, but not always easy. Many of our expressions tell about this difficulty.
One of these expressions is "Hobson's choice." It often is used to describe a difficult choice. But that is not what it really means. Its real meaning is to have no choice at all.
The Hobson in the expression was Thomas Hobson. Mr. Hobson owned a stable of horses in Cambridge, England.
Mr. Hobson often rented horses to the students at Cambridge University. But, he did not really trust them to take good care of the horses. So, he had a rule that prevented the students from riding his best horses. They could take the horse that was nearest the stable door. Or, they could not take any horse at all.
Horses at play in a pasture in Hume, Virginia (Steve Ember/VOA)
Thus, a Hobson's choice was really no choice.
Another expression for having no real choice is "between a rock and a hard place." It is often used to describe a difficult situation with few choices -- none of them good. For example, your boss may ask you to work late. But you have plans to go to a movie with your friends. If you refuse to work, your boss gets angry. But if you do not go to the movies with your friends, they may get angry. So what do you do? You are "caught between a rock and a hard place."
Another expression -- "between the devil and the deep blue sea" -- also gives you a choice between two equally dangerous things.
Its meaning seems clear. You can choose the devil and his burning fires of hell. Or, you can choose to drown in the sea. Some word experts say the expression comes from the days of wooden ships. The "devil" is a word for a seam between two pieces of wood along the water-line of a ship. If the seam or crack between the two pieces of wood begins to leak, then a sailor must fix it. The sailor ordered to make the repairs was in a dangerous situation. He was hanging over the side of the ship, working "between the devil and the deep blue sea."
There is still another expression that describes a situation with only bad choices -- being "on the horns of a dilemma."
The dictionary says a dilemma is a situation in which you must make a decision about two equally balanced choices. When your dilemma has horns, a choice becomes impossible. When you are "on the horns of a dilemma" no matter which horn you choose, something bad will happen.
This VOA Special English program Words and Their Stories was written by Marilyn Christiano.
I'm Christopher Cruise.
1.stable n. 马厩；牛棚
Miss Curling won on two horses from Mick Trickey's stable.
2.seam n. 缝；接缝
The skirt ripped along a seam.
3.horn n. 喇叭，号角；角
A mature cow has horns.
1.He was hanging over the side of the ship, working "between the devil and the deep blue sea."
hang over 悬挂在…之上；纠缠住(某人)；笼罩；逼近；威胁
Over the wall he had hung a big map.
He tried to break through the cloud of gloom hanging over his roomates with a joke.
另一个表示没有真正选择的短语是between a rock and a hard place(进退两难，左右为难)，通常用来表示没有多少选择的艰难困境，而且可选的都不好。比如，你的老板可能要求你加班，但你已经计划和朋友一起看电影 。如果你拒绝工作，你的老板会生气 。但如果你不和朋友去看电影，他们可能会生气 。所以你该怎么办呢？你是进退两难 。
另一个表达是between the devil and the deep blue sea(进退维谷)，表示在两个危险程度差不多的事情之间做决定。
它的意思很清楚，你可以选择魔鬼或他的地狱烈火，或者淹死在大海中。有的词汇专家说这个表达来自木船时代 。魔鬼这个词是指沿着船的吃水线的两块木板的接缝处，如果木块的接缝开始漏水，那么海员必须进行维修 。得到命令去维修的海员就处于危险境地，他被吊在船的一侧，在“接缝和大海之间”工作 。
还有一个表达on the horns of a dilemma，表示只有坏的选择的境地。
词典解释说，在dilemma这样的情况下，你必须在两个差不多的选择之间做决定。一旦dilemma“长出尖角”，你便无从选择 。当你身处左右为难的境地(on the horns of a dilemma)，不管你怎么选择，都将有坏事情发生 。