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Carrot and stick

Posted by Keina on November 10, 2000

First of all, let me apologize if this has already been addresed. I DID scan for it, and read
several other postings first, so I didn't just jump on and ask about the whole nine yards, right?

My initial understanding of "carrot and stick" was that it based on the idea of luring a donkey,
by tying a carrot on the end of a stick. So if you were using "carrot and stick" with someone,
you were constantly promising them something (that you had no intention of giving them) as
a means of motivating them.

Lately, however, I have seen this phrase used to mean a combination of reward and punishment.
It still implies some kind of "behavior modification" but in a totally different way.

So my question (and I do have one!) is three-fold:
1. Did I hallucinate my interpretation of the word, or are people using it incorrectly nowadays?
2. How long does a phrase get misused (if in fact it is being misused) before it takes on a new meaning?
2a. Should I fight the good fight (assuming I'm right) or should I fold under the "English is a changing
and evolving language and blah blah blah."

thanks for your patience and your response,
keina