Today’s idioms: “to be in a jam” and “to be in a pickle”

16 Sep

Today we’re introducing two idioms that have a very similar meaning…

In life, we often find ourselves in difficult situations. Sometimes it is our own fault, sometimes it is just an unlucky combination of events. English has many imaginative ways of expressing this. Two of the most common ones are “to be in a jam” and “to be in a pickle”.

Let’s look at them in more detail:

“To be in a jam”: The word “jam” has two meanings – 1) the fruit preserve, for example strawberry jam or apricot jam, and 2) a situation where many things are packed into a small space, for example a “traffic jam”.

“To be in a pickle”: A pickle is food preserved in a jar of vinegar.

Although the two expressions mean the same thing, they are used slightly differently. You will often hear “in a jam” used as an excuse, for example “Sorry, I can’t come tonight, I’m in a bit of a jam”.

“In a pickle” is normally used to describe that a situation is really messy. For example, two young men are talking:

John: “I have a problem. I promised both Jane and Mary that I would take them to the dance on Saturday. What should I do?”

Tom: “Haha, you really got yourself into a pickle, didn’t you?”

So, both a jam and a pickle would be quite unpleasant if you were in them, wouldn’t they?

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One Response to “Today’s idioms: “to be in a jam” and “to be in a pickle””

  1. denib14 September 21, 2013 at 11:44 #

    Possibly a way to remember which one to use?

    Jam is sweet – ‘in a jam’ – not such a bad situation
    Pickle is sour – ‘in a pickle’ – a bad situation

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