T-learning # Idiom
Speak Like a Native

We’re up the creek !

Choose the correct definition a, b or c.

a) We’re having fun !

We are, we are, but this is not the right answer. Please try again.

b) We are the champions !

... my friends, ha ! Got you ! Please try again.

c) We’re in trouble !

Well done ! That’s the right answer.

If someone is up the creek, they are in a challenging or troublesome situation, especially one that cannot be easily resolved.

The informal phrase is also often quoted as ‘up the creek’ or ‘up a creek’ without a paddle.

The Oxford English Dictionary records the first use of "up the creek" as being in American English in 1941.

French translation

être dans de beaux draps, être mal barré

How NOT to translate : *en amont du ruisseau


Examples in context

We’re up a creek and the British have hidden the paddle

Two years ago when Theresa May triggered Article 50 not even the most negative doom merchant in Leinster House could have predicted that a month before the UK is due to leave the EU not a soul in Dublin, London, Brussels or anywhere else would have a clue what the exit plan is.

But here we are. The House of Commons is in a state of disarray last witnessed in the cabin scene from the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera and thanks to the shocking shenanigans of the Tories and Labour, the Irish are up a creek and the British have hidden the paddle.

The Times, 27 Feb. 2019


‘If there is a Bruce Allen and Trent Williams showdown, there might not be any winner

RICHMOND — In old Western movies, the quicker draw wins the gunfight. In the current Redskins showdown between Trent Williams and Bruce Allen, patience might be what pays off.


Williams has two years left on a contract that will pay him nearly $30 million, but little of that money is guaranteed. He’s 31-years-old and hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013. Trent is a smart man ; he recognizes this could be his last chance for a big or increased payday. There are folks inside Redskins Park that believe Williams’ absence is about money, or at least mostly about money, and that if Washington comes up with more guaranteed cash, this situation will resolve itself.

There is also the medical issue. The CBS report has made clear that Williams remains very upset with the Redskins medical staff, and that’s why he won’t rejoin the team. Somewhere along the line, that issue has become personal for Williams against Allen, per the report, and it won’t be resolved.

If that’s true, then the Redskins are up the creek. But for that to be true means Williams is willing to sit out of football for the next two years. A sport he loves with teammates he’s fought alongside of for years.’

NBC Sports Washington, 29 July 2019


Everyday usage

Shouldn’t we stop for gas ? We’ll be up a creek if the car dies on that desolate road ahead.

If any more people resign, we’ll be really up the creek without a paddle.

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