Posted by Masakim on October 13, 2002
In Reply to: To get the wrong end of the stick posted by ESC on October 13, 2002
: : Does anyone know the origin of the phrase "To get the wrong end of the stick", meaning, to misunderstand something?
: I haven't found it in my reference books yet, but my understanding of the phrase -- get the wrong (or sh*tty) end of the stick -- is to get a raw deal.
*wrong end of the stick, the* A misunderstanding
or distortion, as in _We ordered a "full quart" of rice, but the clerk got hold
of the wrong end of the stick and sent us "four quarts" instead_. This expression
refers to a walking stick held upside down, which does not help a walker much.
It originated in the 1400s as _worse end of the staff_ and changed to the current
wording only in the late 1800s. Also see SHORT END OF THE STICK.
*short end of the stick, the* The inferior part, the worse side of an unequal deal. For example, _Helen got the short end of the stick when she was assigned another week of night duty_. The precise analogy in this term, first recorded in the 1930s, has been lost. Some believe it comes from _worse end of the staff_, used since the early 1500s, which in the mid-1800s became, in some instances, short or s h i tty end of the stick, allegedly from a stick poked up one's rectum by another in command of the situation. Others believe it alludes to fighting with sticks, where having a shorter stick is a disadvantage. Also see WRONG END OF THE STICK.
From _The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms_ by Christine Ammer
*get hold of the wrong end of the stick* _coll_ to misunderstand something completely: _I read in the newspaper that the unemployment figures had improved but it has got hold of the wrong end of the stick -- unemployment is still increasing_ [V] Compare *get hold of the right end of the stick* to understand something: _'Did he tell you his whole story -- about his shooting the Portuguese Count and everything? . 'Shooting a Portuguese Count? Are you sure you've got hold of the right end of the stick, old boy?'_ (Evelyn Waugh)
From _Longman Dictionary of English Idioms_