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Between the devil and a hard rock

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the chair of the foreign affairs committee that is looking into the fund mess along with the blue ribbon committee, said she felt “sorry” for De la Paz, who she described as caught “between the devil and a hard rock.”

WtF? Miriam Santiago must’ve been so boggled by dela Paz’s self-immolation that she got her cliches mixed up. The way she said it, I couldn’t help but imagine the former PNP comptroller being caught between a Prada and a nightclub. So, for the sake of clarity (and because I’m a kind of english gestapo) Dela Paz was either caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, or between a rock and a hard place.


“Between the devil and the deep blue sea” came from a Cab Calloway song, circa 1931, but it’d been around much earlier – only the sea wasn’t necessarily blue – as “between the devil and the deep sea.” That was in 1637. Now whether this was just a clever turn of phrase – the expression being pretty self-evident anyway – or was derived from nautical lingo is a matter of some debate.

Aparently, the “devil” was a particularly precarious seam on a wooden ship that needed regular waterproofing. The process of waterproofing must’ve exposed sailors to the danger of being washed overboard. While this makes some sort of sense, some argue against it because it seems that the phrase is actually older than the the use of the word ‘devil’ in seafaring. 

“Between a rock and a hard place,” a phrase that basically means being stuck between two opposing forces, was first seen in 1921, in a work that might have been referencing the 1917 labour disputes in Bisbee, Arizona. Miners there had unionized and were demanding better pay and working conditions. Instead, many of them were forcibly deported to New Mexico. So, it’s pretty convenient – I suppose – to imagine that the phrase referred to the problem of miners either being forced to work the mines or facing unemployment and poverty; a rock and a hard place indeed. 

Just thought you might be interested.


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