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Can I use something like "I am caught in a controversy" to express that I am witnessing and confused by the controversy between other entities?

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Normally the implication of your version is that you personally represent one side of the controversy. If you're not personally involved, and you don't understand the issues being contested, you could perhaps say you're bemused by the controversy. – FumbleFingers Nov 25 '12 at 15:09
What if I am not directly involved, but understand the issues being contested, just can't make up my mind? – dmitreyg Nov 25 '12 at 15:27
You are perhaps perplexed by or drawn both ways in or of two minds concerning the controversy. – StoneyB Nov 25 '12 at 15:34
Then you are an outsider and as such cannot be caught in the controversy. You can be caught in a conundrum, if you insist; or be facing a dilemma, perhaps; but frankly, if you can't make your mind up, then the most appropriate idiom to express that is "I can't make my mind up". Which you just used yourself. – RegDwigнt Nov 25 '12 at 15:36
up vote 3 down vote accepted

“You are caught in a controversy” would not lead me to think you are “witnessing and confused by the controversy between other entities”. Instead, it suggests you have become involved or embroiled in a controversy, either as a disputant or as the subject of the controversy. (Note that “You have been detected in a controversy” is a possible-but-unlikely interpretation as well. This is analogous to the more-common “You have been caught in a contradiction”.)

The original form, “I am caught in a controversy”, is not idiomatic and is less common and less literate than “I am caught up in a controversy”, which still means you have become entangled in a controversy. To express that you are witnessing and confused by a controversy, follow FumbleFingers' suggestion and say you are bemused (“perplexed and bewildered”) by a controversy, or say you are intrigued or diverted (entertained, amused, or perhaps distracted) by it.

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+1 Since intrigued was my first thought for the situation where a "non-participant" isn't necessarily ignorant of the issues, or unable to decide where he stands. Intriguingly, captivated by the controversy seems to me to convey that sense in this specific context, even though in other contexts caught [up] in/by can be equivalent to captivated in/by. – FumbleFingers Nov 25 '12 at 15:59
Thanks everybody. Bemused and captivated by the controversy between two answers I am going to mark this one as the a correct one. – dmitreyg Nov 26 '12 at 14:19

As in any language, this is an idiomatic usage.

It is equivalent to saying

to be entangled in controversy.

To be caught in controversy, you could either be

  • the cause or reason
  • an innocent bystander
  • one of the participants

The idiomatic use of the word caught should be equivalently used in languages other than English too.

Other uses could be

  • She was caught in the web of conspiracy that Obamacare was funded by Martians.
  • We were caught in traffic.
  • The goalkeeper was caught off-guard, and let the weak striker shoot into goal.
  • The poor are often caught in the recursive effects of poverty.

You should be cautioned that the idiomatic use of caught is not the same as caught up - to be excited over, to follow fervently or feverishly the progress of the subject. You could be caught up without being a direct participant.

  • The Kenyans were caught up with the US presidential elections.
  • Almost every teenager had been caught up with the release of the new Harry Potter book.
  • The whole world has been caught up with the "Gangnam Style" video.

The country was caught up with the private lives of the people who were caught in the controversial death of Princess Diana.

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Hmm ... in my world (AE, Boomer vintage) catch up with means something entirely different, and is rarely used passively. I'd use fascinated with or taken with or absorbed in here, and caught up in for entangled in a controversy. – StoneyB Nov 25 '12 at 16:29

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