In the Soup: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
January 31, 2024

The phrase "in the soup" refers to being in a difficult, troublesome, or complicated situation. It's often used to describe being in a predicament where one faces problems or complications that are hard to resolve.

In short:

  • It signifies being in a difficult or problematic situation.
  • It expresses the challenge of dealing with complex or troublesome circumstances.

What Does "In the Soup" Mean?

The phrase "in the soup" is a colloquial expression used to describe a state of difficulty or trouble. It's similar to saying one is in a tight spot or a sticky situation. For example, if someone has made a significant error at work, they might say, "I'm really in the soup now," implying they are in a problematic situation with potentially serious consequences.

More about the phrase's meaning:

  • It's often used to express being overwhelmed or facing a dilemma.
  • Though it's more commonly figurative, it can be used in both a literal and figurative sense.
  • The phrase is versatile and can be applied to various personal and professional scenarios.
  • Similar expressions include "in a pickle," "in a jam," and "in hot water."

Where Does "In the Soup" Come From?

It is suggested that the phrase may have a literal metaphorical origin, akin to being "in a stew" or "in a pickle." This idiom is categorized as late 19th-century U.S. slang. The exact origin of the phrase is not clearly defined, but it seems to have emerged as a figurative way to describe someone being in a difficult or muddled situation​.

10 Examples of "In the Soup" in Sentences

To illustrate the usage of this phrase, here are some examples from different contexts:

  • After missing the deadline, she realized she was in the soup with her boss.
  • He got in the soup when he forgot his anniversary.
  • The team was in the soup after losing their key player to injury.
  • The company was in the soup after a major public relations scandal.
  • When he lost his passport abroad, he was really in the soup.
  • When the tables had turned, and he found himself in the soup at work, his colleagues surprisingly came to his aid, showing solidarity in his time of need.
  • As someone who often speaks from experience, she candidly shared how she felt in the soup when first starting her career, offering valuable insights to the new recruits.
  • Having to start from scratch after their business initially failed, they were truly in the soup, but this challenge only fueled their determination to succeed.
  • Even when it seemed like doubling down on the failing strategy would put them further in the soup, the CEO remained steadfast, believing in the long-term vision.
  • Trying to bear the burden of the family's financial troubles, he felt like he was constantly in the soup, struggling to find a way out.

Examples of "In the Soup" in Pop Culture

This phrase has been used in various forms of popular culture, often to depict characters facing challenges or difficult situations.

Let's look at some examples:

  • "An Island in the Soup" is a children's book that offers a fun and imaginative twist on children playing with and in their food, telling a story of fantasy and adventure.
  • In the 1992 film "In the Soup," directed by Alexandre Rockwell, Steve Buscemi plays Adolpho Rollo, a New Yorker who gets involved in a quirky and unique storyline.
  • The Laurie Berkner Band performs the song "I Feel Crazy, So I Jump in the Soup," which includes playful lyrics about feeling crazy and jumping into a soup.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "In the Soup"

Here are some alternative phrases that express a similar idea:

  • In a pickle
  • In a jam
  • In hot water
  • Up the creek (without a paddle)
  • Between a rock and a hard place
  • In a tight spot
  • On thin ice
  • At a crossroads
  • In a bind
  • In dire straits

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "In the Soup":

  • What does "in the soup" mean?

"In the soup" means being in a difficult, complicated, or troublesome situation, often with challenging consequences.

  • Can "in the soup" be used in formal writing?

While it's more common in informal speech, "in the soup" can be used in formal writing, especially in a figurative or colloquial context.

  • Is this phrase negative or positive?

The phrase generally has a negative connotation, as it refers to problematic situations.

  • Can "in the soup" refer to good situations?

No, it typically refers to challenging or unfavorable circumstances.

  • Is "in the soup" a common phrase?

Yes, it is quite common, especially in American English, and is understood in many English-speaking cultures.

  • Does "in the soup" always refer to serious problems?

Not always. The severity of the "soup" can vary from minor inconveniences to major difficulties.

  • Can "in the soup" be used humorously?

Yes, it can be used in a light-hearted or humorous way, especially to describe minor predicaments.

  • Are there any similar phrases in other languages?

Many languages have their own idioms for describing trouble or difficult situations, though they may not involve soup.

  • What is the origin of the phrase?

The exact origin is unclear, but it likely comes from early 20th-century American slang.

  • Can "in the soup" be used in business contexts?

Yes, it can be used in business contexts to describe challenging or problematic situations in a workplace setting.

Final Thoughts About "In the Soup"

The idiom "in the soup" is a colorful way to describe being in a difficult situation. It's a phrase that's easily understood and can be used in various contexts, from everyday conversations to literature and pop culture.

To recap:

  • It is often used to describe troublesome situations.
  • The phrase can be used both informally and formally.
  • It generally has a negative connotation but can be used humorously.
  • It's a versatile phrase applicable in many different scenarios.

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