Posted by Smokey Stover on November 04, 2003
In Reply to: Shafted posted by Rude Boy on October 27, 2003
: : : : : : : Recently heard this being used in a speech and my wife and I disagreed as to whether this was an offensive term or not. It's was used as an equivalent to "getting the short end of the stick." For some reason I felt it was more of a prison slang term with sexual connotations. Any ideas?
: : : : : : "Short end of the stick" has the same connotations for those aware of its origin, so if one term is offensive in a given context, then both are.
: : : In the very old sense of "provided with a shaft," most of the examples usually given refer to arrowheads or spearheads being provided with a shaft. The newer meaning, being treated unfairly or with disfavor, is not less than a hundred years old, and apparently had, originally, no sexual connotations. Since the '60s, perhaps earlier, the sexual connotation has been explicit--vide the movie "Shaft"--but the meaning comes down to the same thing. When one is shafted, one is had, but in the figurative sense. "He shafted me" means "he did it to me again." The force of the implied vulgarism is attenuated by the fact that everyone uses some alternative for the F word for the same thing, that is, for being done dirty to.
: : : As for "the short end of the stick," my father, whom I only heard on one single occasion use a vulgarism of an offensive sort (when he hit his thumb with a hammer), used often to speak of getting the short end of the stick. He and I thought it referred to that little ritual used for deciding who gets some unpleasant task that needs doing. One person holds twigs or narrow sticks that have been broken into differing lengths in such a fashion as to conceal all but the evenly lined-up tops of the sticks. When each individual has chosen a stick, they are compared. He who has the short stick is stuck. Perhaps others recall different uses of the phrase. However, I never heard of any sexual connotation adhering to "short end of the stick."
: : I don't think either phrase "getting shafted" or "short end of the stick" has anything to do with sex.
: : Regarding "shafted":
: : Merriam-Webster says:
: : : Main Entry: 2shaft
: : : Function: transitive verb
: : : Date: 1611
: : : 1 : to fit with a shaft
: : : 2 : to treat unfairly or harshly
: : : So, what does "fit with a shaft" mean?
: : "The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology" by Robert K. Barnhart (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1995) says a shaft is a "long slender rod of a staff or spear."
: : Regarding "short end of the stick," I like the explanation given in November 2000 by Dora:
: : I am quite confident that the phrase "short end of the stick" refers to an old fashioned method for carrying heavy objects. (this can be visualized using a bale of hay) a long stick is inserted through ropes or cords wrapped around the object and two (or more) people carry the object together. If the load is off-center a disproportionate burden is placed on the person(s) on the "short end of the stick".
: 'Shafted' : the penis figuratively described has a shaft and the use of the expression is to be given a length in that way. It is also a negative expression - it implies callousness and roughness in the sexual act, not love-making, so is also used of being done down - 'used' cynically.
: Short end of the stick ? Come come! it is another of those euphemisms - it really is the 's h i t end of the stick' except in polite company. using sticks for bottom-wiping purposes is and has been common-place for millennia. the Greeks & Romans used a sponge stick to wipe their bottoms and people also use sticks to clear manure from their boots.
: the stick thus has two ends, the hand end and the dirty end. the dirty end is the s h i t end of the stick and thus a bad deal.
:If someone has seen in print some plainly sexual or vulgar use of "the short end of the stick," or has heard another person use it in an unmistakeably sexual or vulgar sense in conversation, learning of his might dent my skepticism. As for Dora and her bale of hay, I'm equally skeptical. I've carried bales of hay, by myself, as has every American farmer. As for transporting them significant distances, that's what hay wagons are for, replacing an even older vehicle used for transporting hay, namely, the oxcart. I've never heard of anyone anywhere carrying bales of hay in the manner described by Dora, although perhaps it was the custom in her part of the country.