between two stools one falls to the ground

between two stools one falls to the ground
Inability to choose between, or accommodate oneself to, alternative viewpoints or courses of action is likely to end in disaster. Now more common in the metaphorical phrase to fall between two stools. Cf. medieval L. labitur enitens sellis herere duabus, he falls trying to sit on two seats; also current in early 16th-cent. German (woodcut in Thomas Murner’s Schelmenzunft, 1516).

c 1390 GOWER Confessio Amantis IV. 626 Thou farst [farest] as he betwen tuo stoles That wolde sitte and goth to grounde.

c 1530 R. HILL Commonplace Book (EETS) 129 Betwen two stolis, the ars goth to grwnd.

1841 DICKENS Old Curiosity Shop I. xxxiii. She was..still in daily occupation of her old stool opposite to that of her brother Sampson. And equally certain it is, by the way, that between these two stools a great many people had come to the ground.

1907 W. DE MORGAN Alice-for-Short xvi. Your mother wants to put it off on me... But I won’t be let into saying anything... Charles saw that between the two stools the young couple wouldn’t fall to the ground, but would go to the altar.

1979 A. CHISHOLM Nancy Cunard xxi. Politically, Nancy had fallen between stools.


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