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Short end of the stick

Posted by David FG on December 03, 2009 at 17:59

In Reply to: Short end of the stick posted by Baceseras on December 03, 2009 at 16:27:

: : : 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.

: : Have you read the relevant entry in the "Meanings and sayings" list? //

: [May I say I doubt whether the example above fits a true picture of farm life, now or in the past: can there ever have been a "need" to "walk through a mess of cow s h i t to bring the cows in for milking"? Cow s h i t doesn't run all over the ground like a slurry; it lands in heaps (cow pies, cow pats) which can easily be walked around, not through. You would have to tread carefully in a pasture, keep your eyes open and dodge as required, but you wouldn't be wading through the stuff. - Bac.]

And wouldn't it be a fairly badly run farm to let the stuff pile up so deep that anyone needed hauling out of the stuff with a stick?