Getting the short end of the stick means you’re getting the worse or less advantageous part of a deal or situation. How does it differ from the wrong end of the stick, though? And where did these phrases even come from? Let’s unpack all the details about these witty idioms together and learn how to use them properly.
Short End of the Stick vs. Wrong End of the Stick: What’s the Diff?
Okay, both idioms involve sticks but have slightly different intents. As I already mentioned, the short end of the stick is what you’d say when you’re getting the worst deal in a given situation.
Now, getting the wrong end of the stick is often used in the same manner because it holds a very similar meaning. In fact, they’re used interchangeably these days. But this version of the phrase is supposed to mean you’ve misunderstood something.
I guess you could say they’re the sticks of misfortune and misunderstanding!
Wrong End of the Stick and Short End of the Stick Meanings Explained
To delve deeper into these two phrases, let’s start with short end of the stick. Imagine a situation where two people are sharing a single stick of candy by cracking it in half. If one person gets a much smaller portion, they’ve gotten the short end of the stick, aka the bad end of the deal.
But getting the wrong end of a stick means you got the wrong information about something or misunderstood details concerning a situation. It’s like telling your friend the meaning behind a movie you both just watched, but you missed the entire moral of the story, so your friend replies with, “You got the wrong end of the stick there, buddy.”
Short End of the Stick Origin and Etymology
There are so many theories behind the origin of this phrase. Both short end of the stick and wrong end of the stick entered the English language around the early 1800s.
Some say that short end of the stick comes from the old practice that rich people would use fabrics to clean themselves after using the bathroom, but poor people would use sticks.
Other sources state that the phrase is linked to walking canes or staffs and that if you had them upside down, they’d be wrong, or you’d have the short end or wrong end of the stick.
Synonyms to Use for Short End of the Stick
- Raw deal
- Bad end of the bargain
- The bum deal
- Worse part of the deal
- Less advantageous position
Synonyms for Wrong End of the Stick
- Fail to understand
Using the Phrases: Examples in a Sentence
I’ve broken up the list of sentence examples into two sections to show you the slight difference between these two phrases.
Short End of the Stick:
- My brother always gives me the short end of the stick when we share dessert.
- In that trade, it seems like our team got the short end of the stick.
- He felt like he got the short end of the stick when his friend took credit for the project they did together.
- Jane seems to have the short end of the stick in that relationship.
- Developing nations often get the short end of the stick in global agreements.
Wrong End of the Stick:
- You’ve got the wrong end of the stick; I wasn’t blaming you for the mistake.
- She got the wrong end of the stick when I said I needed space.
- He took the wrong end of the stick from our conversation and thought I was quitting.
- My teacher got the wrong end of the stick and marked my answer as incorrect.
- When it comes to fashion trends, I usually get the wrong end of the stick.
Sticking With the Idioms
After this guide, you should be equipped to distinguish between the short end of the stick and the wrong end of the stick. With this info, you can express nuances of misfortune or misunderstanding with a quirky little, idiomatic twist. Hang around our site for more insights into common idioms, and keep improving your language skills one phrase at a time!