caught between two stools

caught (or fall) between two stools

Meaning:

  • come between two alternatives, and so fail to fulfill either of them
  • fail due to difficulty in choosing between two alternatives
  • fail to achieve either of two contrasting aims

Examples:

  1. This book cannot be an academic one nor can it be a popular commercial one; it falls between two stools.
  2. It is difficult to organize an event that appeals to both young and old; you could end up being caught between two stools.
  3. This car neither has good power nor gives good mileage; it falls between two stools.
  4. Do not try to be both a teacher and a friend to your students; you would be caught between two stools.
  5. This tutorial is too complicated for a beginner and too simple for an advanced student. It falls between two stools.
  6. Don’t try to club a relaxing vacation with an adventurous one; it would fall between two stools.

Origin:
This is an old phrase and was first cited in the late 1300s. The first recorded modern use is in Matthew Prior’s comic poem Alma; or, The Progress of the Mind, written in 1717.

C 2 Thoughts

2 Thoughts

Unfortunately, no website explains why stools are used in this idiom. It just sounds odd.

- MJ June 19, 2019

I have been using couple of times, in my mind it is a good idiom dictionary by explaining the idiom in a simple way. Thanks

- Kaiwan Tufiq March 2, 2018

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put your foot in it

Meaning: say something (by mistake) that upsets, humiliates, or embarrasses someone

Example: Carla put her foot right in it when she congratulated her neighbour on being pregnant. It turns out she's not expecting but had just put on weight. Read on

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