This is going to sound like the beginning of ‘A man walked into a bar…’ joke, but that’s exactly what it was. Today I was meeting a friend of mine in a café and at some point a man with a guitar walked in and started playing, which was a bit unusual even for the laid-back Stokes Croft. Afterwards he was asking for some money, but insisted that there was ‘no pressure’ and that he didn’t want to ‘put anyone on the spot‘.
I’ve heard this expression on many occasions and it means ‘to ask somebody a question that is difficult or embarrassing to answer’ (MacMillan Dictionary), or, more generally, to put somebody in an uncomfortable situation, particularly in front of other people.
More examples of how it’s used:
– Journalists can use live blogs to put politicians on the spot in the run up to elections, or provide live coverage from public debates hosted by newspapers (The Guardian).
– These are some of the findings of a new report from the National Consumer Council (NCC) which puts supermarkets on the spot over their influence on our diets (The Guardian).
– For most people giving a presentation is one of their greatest fears. I suspect most people can handle this but what they really worry about is being ‘put on the spot.’ It could be an unexpected or difficult question. Or a comment or interjection from the audience (speedthinking.com).