Between Scylla and Charybdis
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What is the meaning and origin of Between Scylla and Charybdis?
Lachlan, Ireland (05.12.2006).
First, let's deal with the pronunciation of the two words. The sc in Scylla is pronounced like the s in sit, sip and set, while the following y is like the i in it, is and hit. The final a is like the a in china. The main stress is on the first syllable. The ch in Charybdis is pronounced like the k in kit, kill and kiss. The following a is like the a in china, while the y and the final i are like the i in kit, pit and sit. The main stress is on the second syllable.
Scylla and Charybdis are two rocks located in a narrow sea passage in the Straits of Messina. Scylla is located on the Italian side, while Charybdis is on the Sicilian side. In ancient Greek mythology, Scylla was a female monster with twelve feet and six heads. She had razor sharp teeth and was capable of ripping apart sailors who had the misfortune of coming too close to her. Charybdis was a whirlpool. It was seen as a monster, which gulped down huge amounts of water and in the process sucked in sailors who accidentally got close to it. When Ulysses tried to make his way through this narrow passageway, Scylla managed to kill six of his sailors. When you say you are between Scylla and Charybdis what you are implying is that you are between the devil and the deep blue sea. You are being threatened by two dangers at the same time and in trying to avoid one you fall victim to the other. The two dangers are often seen as representing life. Trying to avoid one mistake, we often end up making another.
Shakespeare used this expression in his Merchant of Venice - "When I shun Scylla your father, I fall into Charybdis your mother."
• Revathi wanted to be on good terms with both her in laws and her parents. But the effort of pleasing one without offending the other was like steering between-Scylla-and-Charybdis.
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