damned if I do, damned if I don't

Idioms & Phrases

damned if I do, damned if I don't

A situation in which one can't win. For example, If I invite Aunt Jane, Mother will be angry, and if I don't, I lose Jane's friendshipI'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. Eric Partridge suggested this idiom may have come from the emphatic I'm damned if I do, meaning "I definitely will not do something," but despite the similar wording the quite different meaning argues against this theory. [Colloquial; first half of 1900s] Also see catch-22.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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