“There are no two ways around it.”

I remember my mother saying firmly to me, after I said “But…” as an opening to disagreeing with her about something, “There are no buts about it.”

And we all know the expression “There’s no way around it,” meaning we had to face something, or do something we wished we could avoid.

I can just about imagine my student confusing “around” and “about,” because they do share an area of meaning. I don’t know if she had a mother who said “There are no buts about it,” leaving the “about it” lurking there in her memory ready to leap into action if needed. I feel as if there’s another expression beginning in “There” and ending in “about it,” but I can’t quite recall one; anyway, that structure got into my student’s mind somehow, and then it cross-bred with “no way around it.”

And why do I think she might have meant “about” rather than “around”? Because I think she must have wanted something like the “buts” pattern. I wish I had saved the context of the sentence, because that might have cleared things up a little, but all I have is the sentence itself. “My brother said he had a different way to do the math problem, but with this kind of problem there are no two ways about it”—I think the sentence feels as if it’s trying to do something like that. If so, then “about” is what’s needed, not “around.”

But suppose she actually meant “around.” Suppose she was writing about having to face something, or do something, one might prefer to avoid. Then the more interesting question arises: Why two ways? Is there one way around it? If so, why would anyone want two? Can true evasion be achieved only with dual paths? Or are we wishing for geography that would permit two friends to split up, go around something, and then meet up again on the other side?

Well, it’s a strange sentence, with a kind of Wonderland flavor: a very definite tone with something nutty in the content. It feels like something I might like to say someday, just to see what happens.

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

2 responses to ““There are no two ways around it.”

  • philosophermouseofthehedge

    I agree with your last paragraph.
    I sometimes wonder if people are in such a hurry while multi-tasking that their ears are no longer tuned to an entire phrase. They hear part and assume they know the rest – and leap onward?….Or whether it’s a matter of writing too fast? Or just careless about what things actually say…Or used to writing so infrequently that if there’s a problem, they complain “you knew what I meant!” (so why do I have to write it correctly…)
    Sigh.

  • yearstricken

    I remember my mother saying, “There’s nothing to be done about it,” and “There’s no way around it.” She never hinted that there could have been two ways.

    I love that final sentence. Let me know how it goes when you say that.

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