Posted by Bob on February 10, 2000
In Reply to: More Carrot & Stick posted by Gary Martin on February 10, 2000
: : : : Does anyone know the origin of the "carrot & stick" metaphor?
: : : CARROT AND STICK - I thought the origin of this expression was pretty clear. Mules are stubborn so some enterprising farmer rigged up a stick with a carrot on a string that would dangle in front of the mule, a few inches from his nose. The mule could never get close enough to take a bite but would keep running to try and "catch up" with the carrot. That's the image I have - a fishing pole device attached to a mule's back. It may be something I've seen in a book.
: : : Anyway, I didn't realize there was a mystery. Then I looked up the expression in the "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977). It says: ".carrot and stick. A riddle that seems to have confounded many students of language is the origin of the carrot and stick expression. Research in Aesop's Fables, the Uncle Remus folk tales and other such sources didn't turn up any answers."
: : : Mr. and Mrs. Morris cite a couple of instances where the expression was used -- a speech by Winston Churchill and the movie "Maltese Falcon" but it sounds like the animal was tempted with a carrot and beaten with a stick. I am sure this is wrong. The stick is used to keep the carrot out front, not to hit the animal. Mr. Churchill in a press conference, May 25, 1943, states: 'We shall continue to operate on the Italian donkey at both ends, with a carrot and with a stick,".
: : : I hate to say this but I believe Mr. Churchill and Mr. and Mrs. Morris got it wrong.
: : Now I'm on a quest to prove that I'm right and Winston Churchill
was wrong. Here's one site that agrees with me - and it's a Christian
forum too. That should count extra points: http://dailyhelp.com/az36.htm
: : "The dumb farmer is the one who keeps on beating a dumb animal. The smart farmer straps a long stick over the donkey's head and ties a carrot to the end of the stick. The donkey wants the carrot, so he steps forward to get it and the carrot moves forward. Pretty soon, the donkey is moving on without getting his hind- end all blistered up and the farmer gets what he wants without being an angry moron."
: I'm with Winnie on this one. The OED says:
: stick-and-carrot adj. phr.
: characterized by both the threat of punishment and the offer of reward;
I have to offer a (rare) dissent, too. I hear the phrase most often used as carrot OR stick, with the notion of choice embedded in it. Positive or negative reinforcement. Bribes or beatings. Orchids or onions.