Words and Their Stories: Hobson's Choice
Mister Hobson often rented horses to the students at Cambridge University. But, he did not really trust them to take good care of the horses. So, he had a rule that prevented the students from riding his best horses. They could take the horse that was nearest the stable door. Or, they could not take any horse at all.
For example, your boss may ask you to work late. But you have plans to go to a movie with your friends. If you refuse to work, your boss gets angry. But if you do not go to the movies with your friends, they may get angry. So what do you do? You are caught between a rock and a hard place.
The devil is a word for a seam between two pieces of wood along the water-line of a ship. If the seam or crack between the two pieces of wood begins to leak, then a sailor must fix it. The sailor ordered to make the repairs was in a dangerous situation. He was hanging over the side of the ship, working between the devil and the deep blue sea.
The dictionary says a dilemma is a situation in which you must make a decision about two equally balanced choices. When your dilemma has horns, a choice becomes impossible. When you are on the horns of a dilemma, no matter which horn you choose, something bad will happen.