Posted by R. Berg on September 17, 2001

In Reply to: I'm in a pickle on this one. posted by christine on September 16, 2001

: I understand the meaning of the phrase 'to be in a pickle' to mean a challenging or difficult circumstance. Where does this phrase originate?

The Oxford English Dictionary lists this figurative sense of "pickle" as a subentry under "pickle" as a noun meaning a pickling liquid, such as brine, or the food preserved in it. The specific definition is "A condition or situation, usually disagreeable; a sorry plight or predicament. . . . Now colloquial." The first quotation given to illustrate this use is dated 1562. Doesn't really say how it came about. I'm speculating that being "in a pickle" is about like being "in the soup"--the pickle being the liquid, not the cucumber, the pepper, or whatever.