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Between a rock and a hard place

Posted by RRC on September 19, 2009 at 21:23

In Reply to: Between a rock and a hard place posted by Victoria S Dennis on September 19, 2009 at 19:17:

: : : : Could "between a rock and a hard place", be from the accidental release of the hammer of a flintlock rifle, capturing your thumb or finger?
: : : :
: : : : The frizzen, which covers the priming powder in the pan of the lock, must be case hardened to produce sparks as the flint scrapes. metal particles into the priming powder. The main spring on the lock is very strong, for speed and to produce many sparks. The Flint is clamped in the jaws of the hammer or cock, and is knapped or chipped to a near knife edge, I have shot flintlocks in competition for 20 years and have fired over 10,000 times. I have only caught my thumb in the lock twice, both being memorable occasions, and recall them as being "between a rock and a hard place."

: : : I think it's unlikely, if only because technologies normally only generate everyday phrases while they are in everyday use, and this phrase dates from several generations after flintlocks went out of fashion. You have had the experience of catching your thumb in a flintlock, but how many people in the 1920s would have done? Or would seen someone else do it, or even have had any notion what the lock of a flintlock was like?(VSD)

: : I always thought it was inspired by "between Scylla and Carybdis." I'm a dedicated folk etymologist, that is, a romantic.
: : SS

: Well, that's quite possible - some newspaperman or whatever starts to write "between Scylla and Charybdis", realises that most of his readership won't know what they were or even how to pronounce them, and paraphrases! (VSD)

I've always thought that connection was suspect. Scylla is a rock but Charybdis is a whirlpool. I think it's more just a joke on being caught between a rock... and another rock. 6 of one, half-dozen of the other - that sort of thing. ;-)