I can across this saying recently in a post about the perils of blogging by Todd Henderson. It allegedly is a Yiddish proverb, made popular in a speech by Malcolm Gladwell. I’m actually not so sure it’s a real piece of Yiddishkeit. None of my (Hungarian) Yiddish-speaking relatives have heard of it, and I can’t find the real Yiddish version anywhere. Rather, I think the expression is best sourced to Isaac Bashevis Singer, who wrote an English short story with the expression in the title, and who used variants in several other pieces. (If anyone knows different, please feel free to comment.)
Anyway, it’s a useful expression for someone who feels trapped by a bad situation. I thought I’d pass it along. It’s an illustration, incidentally, of how bizarre associations can make writing more vivid. (What’s the worm doing in horseradish? Why horseradish? Are worms kosher for Passover?) It’s also a useful reminder, in this new year, that it’s pretty bad to be a worm in horseradish.