phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Short end of the stick

Posted by Tom Meyer on December 02, 2009 at 09:30

The origin of the phrase "short end of the stick"

A stick has a finite length, so how could it have a short end? I inferred a situation in which one was in some sort of a tug of war, using a "stick" instead of a rope. Having less stick to hang onto would be disadvantageous.
Then I heard a neighbor's wife tell how her husband's older brother had inherited the farm and that she and her husband "got the s h i t end of the stick." Having worked on a farm as a boy, it all made sense to me now. If you needed to walk through a mess of cow s h i t to bring the cows in for milking, you'd use a long pole (maybe a shovel handle) as a walking stick to maintain your balance. If your boots got stuck, you'd use the pole as a rescue device, reaching it out to some helper, who'd pull you out of the muck. Unfortunately, one of you got the s h i t end of the stick. Most logical explanation I'd heard.

"Short" is to "s h i t" as "heck" is to "hell." The phrase had been sanitized for common use. That's my story and I'm "sticking" to it.