One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
An imaginary street where people in difficulties (especially financial ones) are supposed to reside; (hence) the fact of being in a difficult position, in trouble, etc.
Early 19th century; earliest use found in Lexicon Balatronicum: a dictionary of buckish slang, university wit, and pickpocket eloquence. An alternative derivation of this phrase from the name of Carey Street in London, site of the bankruptcy court, is unlikely, since the court was not located there until after 1840, and the phrase was apparently not originally restricted to financial difficulties.
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