There’s the rub

“Qui casca l’asino!” diremmo in italiano, anche se there’s the rub è una citazione Shakespeariana (dal celebre soliloquio di Amleto “To be or not to be”) dove è spesso tradotta con “qui è l’ostacolo”. Ma cosa vuol dire esattamente rub? Ve lo spieghiamo…

Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

There’s an expression which comes up in English from time to time (1) which is rather (2) strange and it’s “There’s the rub,” which means, you know, “There’s the problem” and people often wonder: How can “There’s the rub” mean “This is the problem” when, as far as we know, the verb to rub means, you know, strofinare. And we looked into this and found out (3) the reason. Of course everybody knows that the expression “There’s the Rub” – well, not everybody, but most people know that the expression “There’s the rub” – comes from the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy in Hamlet, but nobody knows, really, why… why “There’s the rub” means “This is the problem” and, looking into this, we discovered that in fact the rub is a little piece in the ground, a sort of bump (4) in the ground which creates a problem which, like if you’re like playing a sport and you roll (5) the ball along the ground and it hits this little divot (6), this piece of… piece of ground, it goes out of play, or its… its course gets changed, and that’s called “the rub,” and that’s… and in Shakespeare’s day, “There’s the rub,” “the rub” meant… people knew that it meant this little piece of ground that created problems, and that’s how “There’s the rub” was… was picked up (7) by Shakespeare, but in actual fact the term “rub” in this sense continues, it’s still… it’s still used in… in golf, which is kind of strange, they talk about “the… the rub of the green.” It’s when you’re putting on the green and the ball moves slowly and it hits a little divot and goes out of its way, causing you problems. That’s… that’s why “There’s the rub” means what it does. However, fans of progressive rock might remember the album by Wishbone Ash, which was called There’s the Rub and which came out in 1974, and big fans of progressive… prog rock might remember the album cover which features a pair… a cricketer holding a ball against his white cricketing trousers because basically in cricket you rub the ball to… to have effect in its trajectory when you’re… you’re bowling at the batsman (8), just in the same way that in baseball the pitcher sometimes spits (9) or puts earth on… on the ball to… to affect it (10). So when Storm Thorgerson, who was this great character (11) who designed a lot of album covers, including Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, when he did the Wishbone Ash cover he had the great idea of putting a picture of a cricketer rubbing his trousers with the ball because the album was called There’s the Rub, therefore highlighting (12)  the double meaning of the word rub.

Wishbone Ash album "There's the Rub"

Wishbone Ash album “There’s the Rub”


1    which comes up in English from time to time: che a volte spunta in inglese
2    rather: piuttosto
3    we looked into this and found out: abbiamo analizzato l’espressione e abbiamo scoperto
4    bump: gobba
5    you roll: fai rotolare
6    it hits this little divot: colpisce questa piccola zolla
7    was picked up: è stato scelto
8    you’re bowling at the batsman: quando tu lanci la palla al battitore
9    the pitcher sometimes spits: il lanciatore a volte sputa
10    to affect it: per dare effetto (al tiro)
11    character: personaggio
12    highlighting: evidenziando

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