Sayings from Appalachia

Appalachian Sayings – Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

“I don’t hardly know what you’re going to do. Sounds like you’re between the devil and the deep blue sea.”

The saying means you’re in dangerous territory or a tough situation without a clear way out. Same as the saying ‘between a rock and a hard place’ but in a more colorful manner.

Since there’s no sea within sight of these blue mountains it makes me wonder if the saying came with the first settlers who sailed over the deep blue sea to get here. According to The Phrase Finder website I might be right.

The site shares that the phrase was originally Between the devil and the deep sea and that a 1931 song was most likely the reason for the change to deep blue sea. The website also shares the first known usage:

“The first recorded citation of ‘the Devil and the deep sea’ in print is in Robert Monro’s His expedition with the worthy Scots regiment called Mac-keyes, 1637:

“I, with my partie, did lie on our poste, as betwixt the devill and the deep sea.””

The Phrase Finder also details the possible origins of the phrase-go here to read all about it.

Tipper

 

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    September 22, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    yep, well familiar! Another one popped into my head as I was ready this – I can remember people remarking that so-and-so had really “cut a rusty” that time. Usually, they had pitched a fit or gotten in trouble of some sort, maybe a tantrum.

  • Reply
    Tipper
    June 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

    RB
    Thank you for the great comments! Seems like I have heard the saying before-now I just need to remember where!
    Tipper
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    June 20, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    I remember this phrase growing up in the north too.
    Another one I remember that always puzzled me was, one woman from way back when who instead of saying “Goodness” or “Gracious” or maybe “For heaven’s sakes” use to say “Ye Gods and little fishies” which always made me chuckle, cause like – where on earth did that saying come from? LOL
    Any of you ever heard that saying before?
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    TimMc
    June 19, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    Not familiar with the phrase, but I have been between a rock and a hard place a few times in my life and it ain’t fun..

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    June 19, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Another possibility of the origin could have come from the Exodus when the Israelites were trapped between the Pharaoh who could have personified the “Devil” and the Red Sea.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    June 19, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    I know the expression but between a rock a hard place is more common to me. I think they are equivalent to being SOL and up S. Creek without a paddle in which I have found myself a few times!

  • Reply
    Jack
    June 19, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Another “devil saying” relates to when it rains while the sun is shining (i.e. – “the devil is beating his wife”).

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    June 19, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    That is kind of like being up the creek without a paddle. Love all these old sayings.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 19, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Those rocks in the picture, are they part of the Deer Hunter’s zombie trap system from a couple of years ago. How has that been working?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 19, 2015 at 11:36 am

    I’ve been to the sea and I’ve been to the mountaintops. The waves of the sea remind me of mountains in that none are the same. Some are low and rolling. Some are tall and crested. Some grow too towering and fall. The moment of a sea wave can be measured in seconds, minutes, hours and rarely in days while that of a mountain is in years, centuries, millennia, eras, eons and epochs. Mountains are born, grow, live and die much like waves on the oceans, it just takes a barely imaginable amount of time. Have you never stood on the highest mountaintop and observed waves of mountains fading into the horizon. Why did I write all this? I think the devil made me do it!

  • Reply
    Ken
    June 19, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Tipper,
    That’s about the way I feel about
    my garden this year. Since I fell
    and hurt my back, I have to let
    everything else go. Anyway, I got
    such a late start this year and
    those weeds grow 10 times faster
    than the food. Hope I can salvage
    my tomatoes and Tommy Toes tho.
    There ain’t nothing like a home
    grown mader sandwich.
    Prayers are still going Up for
    Pap and B.Ruth’s loved one…Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 19, 2015 at 9:47 am

    Hmmmm, phrase finder mentions the variant ‘between the devil and the Red Sea’ but makes no reference to the Jewish exodus from Egypt as being a possible origin for the idea, just summarized in those words. To me, the phrase means no apparent way out; a ‘can’t win’ situation. The version I heard growing up was ‘between a rock and a hard place’. We were pretty familiar with that location.

  • Reply
    dolores
    June 19, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Both of those sayings I remember using often over the years. There is also another one – You’re d—– if you do and d—– if you don’t. I’ve been in a few of those types of situations. Decisions are tough!

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    June 19, 2015 at 8:38 am

    We said that in Texas. It was also part of the lyrics of a popular song back in the 1940s.
    Also: (for matters not quite so serious) we said:
    between a rock and a hard place

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 19, 2015 at 8:34 am

    Tipper–As I suspect is true for most readers, “between a rock and a hard place” is more common to me. If you go all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Odysseus, you have a similar conundrum with “between Scylla and Charybdis” (between a rock shoal and a whirlpool). Joseph Heller’s novel “Catch-22” presents a similar dilemma with no palatable option and I think any situation where all options are odious is called Morton’s Fork, Morton’s Theorem or something like that (I’m too lazy to look it up). Then too, the crude acronym SNAFU hints at a similar situation.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    June 19, 2015 at 8:19 am

    Tipper: We could alter this expression to Between the Devil and Lake Chatuge. But folks would probably have trouble with that! As we are so fond of that beautiful lake!
    Wish your lovely daughters could come sing tomorrow in Mureville i.e. Maryville, TN where I hope to sign a few copies of “Fiddler of the Mountains” at the HASTINGS BOOKSTORE with the Author’s Guild of Tennessee – a great group over- here in East Tennessee!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Henry Horton
    June 19, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Another one that made it’s way to the Ozarks and my Mama’s mouth!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 19, 2015 at 7:38 am

    I’ve been there a few times in my life, but not lately!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 19, 2015 at 7:25 am

    Hear this often. Along with Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’, out of the frying pan into the fire. All sayings of hopelessneaa.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 19, 2015 at 7:25 am

    Hear this often. Along with Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’, out of the frying pan into the fire. All sayings of hopelessneaa.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 19, 2015 at 7:25 am

    Hear this often. Along with Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’, out of the frying pan into the fire. All sayings of hopelessneaa.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 19, 2015 at 7:25 am

    Hear this often. Along with Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’, out of the frying pan into the fire. All sayings of hopelessneaa.

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