Chinese "不是 办法 的 办法" or "没有 办法 的 办法" (they're totally interchangeable) are commonly used oxymoron. How to express this meaning properly even rhetorically in English?

不是= not, be not

没有= not have, without, there's no

办法= solution, way, method

的: a grammatical item, indicating the part before is adjective/attribute

不是办法的办法 literally = a(n) option/solution/way that is not a(n) option/solution/way

没有办法的办法 literally = a(n) option/solution/way when there's no option/solution/way

Both display helpless.

Note: Both imply the inadequate 办法 works (at least appears to work or is hoped to work) in one way or another.

An example sentence: "Using Chinese to ask questions on StackExchange is 没有办法的办法. If possible, I would like not use a single Chinese character."

1 "of sorts" is not strong enough.

2 "the best of a bad brunch" says there're a few options (albeit these options are not good). "没有办法的办法" means you probably have no alternative at all.

3 "have no/little choice but ..." has this meaning.

I can say "I have no choice but to use Chinese in my English questions".

However, I can't say "Using Chinese in my English questions is but no choice".

  • 1
    You could say 'Using Chinese in my English questions is unavoidable'. We sometimes use the French expression faute de mieux meaning for lack of a better (option). By the way, it's a bad bunch - brunch is the name of a meal! Jun 21, 2020 at 8:21

1 Answer 1


An idiom in English is "Hobson's choice"

It means "there is only one option available". It is said to have originated from Thomas Hobson who hired horses to customers. Instead of letting the customer choose the horse, he only let them have the horse nearest the stable door (or none at all).

We might use it as "The patent law leaves us with Hobson's choice. We have to use Huawei for the network."

In your example, I wouldn't use "Hobson's choice". I'd say "Using Chinese is an the only option." Or "Using Chinese is unfortunatly necessary".

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