In a Pickle Meaning
Definition: In a little bit of trouble.
This idiom is said of a person in a difficult situation. It can be said jokingly or as a way to downplay the seriousness of the problem.
Origin of In a Pickle
Pickles is a conjugation of the verb to pickle, which is a process of preserving vegetables, and some sources cite evidence that, in the past, there were stories of bodies being preserved in this same way.
By this description, in a pickle could mean in trouble because one was dead. This could be used figuratively to describe anyone in a tough situation.
One of the earliest written uses of this phrase was by the English playwright William Shakespeare in the year 1610, in his play The Tempest.
Alonso: And Trinculo is reeling ripe: where should they
Find this grand liquor that hath gilded ’em? 2355
How camest thou in this pickle?
Trinculo: I have been in such a pickle since I
saw you last that, I fear me, will never out of
my bones: I shall not fear fly-blowing.
Examples of In a Pickle
In the example below, two siblings discuss a new student at their school.
James: So, I finally talked to the new girl, and you were right. She is really friendly.
Jordan: Good! I’m glad you met her.
James: Me too. But now I’m kind of in a pickle.
Jordan: Why? What’s wrong?
James: Well, I actually would really like to ask her on a date, but my best friend likes her, too. I’m not sure what to do.
Jordan: Oh, well, keep me out of it. That seems like it could become a huge mess.
In the second dialogue, two coworkers who are working on a commercial use the expression.
Herman: I’m glad we could compromise and come up with this idea. It’s way better than either of our individual ideas.
Alison: Yeah, I think so too. Let’s show it to the boss.
Herman: Actually, we’re in a bit of a pickle.
Alison: Why do you say that?
Herman: The boss hates everything on which I work. If he knows that I was a part of this, he’ll reject it just out of spite.
Herman: It doesn’t matter. Why don’t you just show it to him and say you did it alone?
Alison: That doesn’t seem fair, but I guess if it’s the only way to solve the problem, I’ll do it just this once.
In this excerpt about a political candidate, the idiom is used to say that she sometimes faced negative views due to her beliefs.
- References to food have sometimes gotten Clinton in a pickle. She ruffled feathers in some quarters when she let it be known that her career took precedence over homemaking. –Houston Chronicle
The second excerpt uses the idiom to explain a troublesome situation in which a judge can see no perfect solution.
- Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert expressed empathy about Mathis’ plight but said the county is in a pickle, too, as state law requires certain government buildings be built in the county seat. –Houston Chronicle
The phrase in a pickle is used to describe a person who is in a bothersome situation or who has a problem that is tricky to solve.