By Eric Partridge
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19–20, though used as early as C. 16. between the devil and the deep sea . Between two dangers; faced with two considerable difficulties: mid C. 18–20. In C. 20, often…deep blue sea. between two fires . Exposed to an assault or a danger (literal or figurative) on both sides or from front and rear: from ca. 1880. e. gun-fire. A dictionary of Clichés 38 between you and me and the bed-post (or gatepost) . In confidence: colloquial: late C. 19–20. An elaboration of between you and me or between ourselves.
At the first glance; at first sight (but not on detailed examination): C. 19–20, though fairly common in C. 16–17. Blush is in its otherwise obsolete sense, ‘a glance, a look’. *at the psychological moment . In the nick of time; at the critical moment; incorrect uses and senses, which constitute the cliché: from ca. 1895. ‘The Prince…always… turns up at the psychological moment—to use a very hardworked and sometimes misused phrase’, The Westminster Gazette, October 30, 1897. D. at this juncture .
Beyond the ken of mortal man . Beyond the vision (hence, knowledge) of man: mid C. 19–20. *beyond the pale . Beyond the bounds of decency (moral or social); no longer acceptable to Society or respectable people: late C. 19–20; since ca. 1920, often ironic of ostracism. Pale is ‘a district or country subject to a certain jurisdiction’. A dictionary of clichés A-Z 39 ‘big fleas have little fleas…’ , where the dots represent a dying fall or a significant pause. In full, ‘Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,|And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum’, adumbrated in Swift’s poem, Poetry, a Rhapsody (Benham): mid C.
A Dictionary of Cliches by Eric Partridge