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.
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, theymay get angry. So what do you do? You are "caught between a rock and a hard place."
另一个表示别无选择的短语是between a rock and a hard place（进退两难）。它常用于形容一种选择面小，且没什么好选择的困难局面。例如，你的老板要求你加班到很晚。但你已经计划好和朋友们一起去看电影。如果你拒绝加班，老板会生气。而如果你不去看电影，朋友们又会生气。这时你该怎么办呢？你陷入了进退两难。
Another expression -- "between the devil and the deep blue sea" -- also gives you a choice between two equally dangerous things.
另一短语，between the devil and the deep blue sea（进退维谷），表示在两个同样危险的事情之间做出选择。
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."
|Horses at play in a pasture in Hume, Virginia (Steve Ember/VOA)|
There is still another expression that describes a situation with only bad choices -- being "on the horns of a dilemma."
还有一个语句，being on the horns of a dilemma（左右为难），形容一种只有不好选择的状况。
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.
词典解释说，“Dilemma”是指必须就两个均衡选项做出选择的情况。一旦它“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。
注：关于尖角的解释：Dilemma是指2个均衡选择。如果Dilemma长尖角，那就变成了公牛的2个牛角。想象一下当你面对2个牛角，无论被哪个牛角伤到，都是不好的结果。因此the horns of a dilemma就是指2个不好的选择，不管你选哪个，结果都不好。
This VOA Special English program Words and Their Stories was written by Marilyn Christiano.
I’m Christopher Cruise.