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Dilemma

The horns of a dilemma. “Lemma” means a thing taken for granted (Greek, lambano, to take). “Dilemma” is a double lemma, a two-edged sword which strikes both ways, or a bull which will toss you whichever horn you lay hold of. A young rhetorician said to an old sophist, “Teach me to plead, and I will pay you when I gain a cause.” The master sued for payment, and the scholar pleaded, “If I gain the cause I shall not pay you, because the judge will say I am not to pay, and if I lose my cause I shall not be required to pay, according to the terms of our agreement.” To this the master replied, “Not so; if you gain your cause you must pay me according to the terms of our agreement; and if you lose your cause the judge will condemn you to pay me.”

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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