paint oneself into a corner


Get oneself into a difficulty from which one can't extricate oneself. For example, By volunteering to do more work in the office and then taking a freelance job, George has painted himself into a corner. This idiom uses the graphic image of painting all of the floor except for the corner one stands in, so that one cannot leave without stepping on wet paint.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.