Posted by Masakim on December 10, 2002
In Reply to: Get on the stick posted by Bob on December 10, 2002
: : : : Where did the phrase "Get on the stick!" come from? It's been driving me crazy! Thanks for your help.
: : : I've never heard the expression here in the UK - perhaps it's an example of ephemeral slang and is very much generational in its use. In which case, I'm too old!
: : Not age but locality. The expression has been around in the U.S. for several decades. The Dict. of American Slang says "on the stick" = "on the ball," but that's not the way I've heard it used. To be on the ball is "to be alert and have vitality and ability" (the same book says). To get on the stick (I say) is to go into action, hurry up, get to work (on whatever). Used as a command, similar to "Don't just stand there, DO something!" Its origin may have had something to do with gearshifts, but that connection may exist only in my mind.
: Or, perhaps, the joystick of an airplane. Grab the stick, get control, be in charge, don't just wait for the crash. Maybe.
on the stick phr.1 [20C] efficient, awaere, in control; thus _get on on the stick_, to get down to work (cf. ON THE BALL). [the gearstick of a car or joystick of an aircrafr, both of which exert control)
From _Cassell's Dictionary of Slang_ by Jonathon Green
Tom Dalzell, in _Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang_ , dates it to 1950s:
on the stick Prepared, alert [Chapter 5 The Mainstream 1950s]
_The American Thesaurus of Slang, Second Edition_ gives another meaning & origin (?):
XXII. PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS. 850-852. FIRE DEPARTMENT AND FOREST RANGERS 852. Fire fighting. 6. ON OR OFF DUTY. On _or_ off track. _Spec. on the pipe, _holding the nozzle_; on the stick, _on ladder duty_.