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How could one describe a situation in which no trick, no approach, no magic, nothing at all works to change the outcome? One where you have no choice but to accept it.

For example, I can't use the excuse that I was ill for missed homework because I've already used it. Or when this happens with your boss?

What can I call such situation, in a single word, wherein you just have to accept the blame, just have to give in for the situation you are in?

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If you have no occasion for judgment or considered choice among options, the situation is not properly termed critical. In the archetypal dilemma, Odysseus had to accept that he would lose at least some of his men, but he still had a choice to make between Scylla and Charybdis, and used his (or perhaps rather Circe's) judgment to make that choice. In characterizing your hypothetical situation as critical, do you mean there is a real and important choice involved? –  Brian Donovan Jul 14 at 17:17
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@BrianDonovan A situation of this sort is critical for OP's 'you' because it is a crisis, a turning-point; its outcome indeed rests on a choice (which may or not be 'considered' or rational), but the choice is not 'yours' but that of the person -the teacher, the boss- whom 'you' must confront. –  StoneyB Jul 14 at 17:37
    
Consider "at an impasse". –  ErikE Jul 16 at 1:59
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14 Answers 14

It's a...

no-win situation

...often summed up by saying you're...

damned if you do, and [you're] damned if you don't

Sometimes it's appropriate to call it a...

Catch-22 [situation]

...where it's inherent in the context that you're required to simultaneously observe two or more mutually contradictory constraints. Particularly when successive solutions you come up with are ruled out because of additional constraints you didn't even know about until they were cited as reasons to reject those solutions.


If you are in such a situation, but you've phlegmatically decided to accept it (and any associated blame) without indulging in further protestations against the "unreasonableness", you are...

resigned - because you accept something unpleasant that cannot be changed or avoided

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There cannot be another word that expresses the meaning any more cogently. However, it is an adjective. Isn't there a noun? –  vickyace Jul 14 at 17:40
    
@vickyace: Obviously you could accept a no-win situation with an air of resignation, for example, for a noun usage. Or adverbially say that you have resignedly accepted the situation. These and several other derived forms are all perfectly normal usages. –  FumbleFingers Jul 14 at 18:02
    
ha. That's what I thought. –  vickyace Jul 14 at 18:10
    
@medica: It's certainly a no-win situation for me! After I answered, OP edited the question to make it clear he's asking about how to describe being forced to admit you're at fault, purely because you've run out of excuses. Arguably I can still be resigned to the fact that my answer is no longer exactly right, but unlike OP I don't feel "blameworthy". So whereas he can come clean, 'fess up, and face the music with his teacher, I can only take it on the chin. –  FumbleFingers Jul 15 at 14:13
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@FumbleFingers your bolding of key phrases reminded me of the website as you no doubt deduced. And it sounds like your experience there is the same as mine has been in terms of time no longer having meaning. –  MrBoJangles Jul 15 at 16:41
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I think "lost cause" fits your description the best.

PS. I just reread the examples of your description and I think you should use "no way out" in those situations.

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+1 for no way out. –  vickyace Jul 15 at 4:13
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Possibly obscure, but Kobayashi Maru? Although some might argue, in a Kobayashi Maru situation, a trick is exactly what is called for.

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Depending on the audience, this could be perfect. –  anorton Jul 14 at 23:41
    
If this answer hadn't been here already, I was going to post it! –  TecBrat Jul 15 at 1:41
    
although I don't think that the kobayashi maru fits in this specific instance because of the fessing up portion, I would have given the same answer myself. –  Joseph Neathawk Jul 15 at 17:47
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There are numerous phrases that convey the acceptance of blame, such as

[all from ODO]

If you are just talking about the situation rather than the guilty persons response, you could say

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Personally, I'd call the case in question a blame game (“A situation in which people attempt to blame others rather than trying to resolve a problem” – wiktionary) or blame fest on the basis that it usually is someone else's fault when I'm blamed for a problem.

But more generally, when one cannot avoid something, one may refer to an inexorable fate (where inexorable means “Impossible to stop or prevent; inevitable” — wiktionary), or in that phrase replace inexorable with inevitable (“Impossible to avoid or prevent” — wiktionary), predestined (“foreordained by divine will” — wiktionary), or preordained (“determined in advance; predestined” — wiktionary).

One might also refer to an inevitability (“An inevitable condition or outcome” — wiktionary), a foregone conclusion (“A predictable or inevitable conclusion” — wiktionary), the millstones of the gods (1,2), a juggernaut (“A literal or metaphorical force or object regarded as unstoppable, that will crush all in its path” — wiktionary), a mea culpa, a peccavi, or something fated (“Foreordained, predetermined, established in advance by fate” — wiktionary).

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Inevitable is my obvious choice of word too for this one. I'm a bit surprised it is so low on the list of answers. –  Tonny Jul 15 at 8:02
    
@Tonny, I was surprised that inevitable, inexorable, and some others of these hadn't been mentioned, when I posted. That was about half a day after the question was asked, and most views had already happened. –  jwpat7 Jul 15 at 14:46
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How about fate, destiny, pre-ordained, or another word along those lines? They all embody the concept of a future that is already written.

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Such a situation is sometimes referred to as a "cul-de-sac" or a "dead end."

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sounds like you painted yourself into a corner

http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/paint+into+a+corner

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The words "hopeless", "fruitless", or "futile" come to mind for me. Given the definitions below, futile seems to best fit your needs.

def:

  • hopeless: feeling or causing despair about something.
  • fruitless: failing to achieve the desired results; unproductive or useless.
  • futile: incapable of producing any useful result; pointless

eg:

  • Given my instructor's strict policy on late assignments, my chances at convincing him otherwise leaves me hopeless.
  • A two our argument with my instructor over my late assignment proved fruitless.
  • To argue with my stubborn instructor over a late assignment would simply be futile.

Cheers.

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Welcome! I realize this is a fairly straightforward answer; still, linking to a definition, or putting one in as a reference, might help people see exactly why these words come to your mind as synonyms. Edit your answer here and you'll be ready for your first upvote! –  Matt Gutting Jul 15 at 14:27
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I believe you would call that a "foregone" conclusion.

(From before+gone, as in the conclusion was gone before the discussion started.)

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I mentioned a foregone conclusion in my answer earlier in the day –  jwpat7 Jul 16 at 4:38
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The best word I can think of is that it would be inevitable. It means certain to happen, or unavoidable, which fits the bill.

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Not a one word, but from the context it sounds like it's "time to face the music."

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Dire straights man.

Or an "impossible situation" - a situation where no resolution or victory is possible.

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That's spelled dire straits, not straights. Also, Wiktionary says “A difficult position” rather than an impossible one. –  jwpat7 Jul 16 at 4:36
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How about "dilemma"? That refers to a situation that's a real stickler.

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"dilemma" does not mean any situation that has no solution. It means a situation where you have two choices to make and both are unpleasant. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jul 14 at 20:23
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