up the creek

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In trouble.

Etymology:

  • This phrase may have come from England's Haslar Creek in Portsmouth harbour, a 'salt' creek. Wounded sailors during the time of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, were taken there to be transported to the Royal Naval Hospital in Haslar to die or recover. The ships moored up in the Solent and the wounded soldiers were transported up Haslar creek by tramline hence 'Up the creek without a paddle'. They were held prisoner so that they would not desert while being treated, and some tried to escape by going through the sewers to the creek. Without a paddle this would be hopeless, hence the phrase 'up the creek ' to mean being trapped, stuck or in trouble. Some very obscure navy related jargon entered the popular culture of the seafaring peoples of the British Isles, and thus entered the English language as a whole.
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Submitted on September 01, 2009

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Nearby phrases

Some more phrases from our dictionary similar to up the creek

How to pronounce this phrase?

  1. Alex
    Alex
    US English
    Daniel
    Daniel
    British
    Karen
    Karen
    Australian
    Veena
    Veena
    Indian

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"up the creek." Phrases.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 4 Apr. 2020. <https://www.phrases.com/phrase/up-the-creek_7824>.

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