On the stick, to get

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14 comments on this post.
  1. Roger Landa:

    I would suggest that “Get on the Stick” is a very old term to mean get to work, or get back to work, probably used by overseers of slaves or workers when beating grain to separate the wheat from the chaff. Also, sheep herders used a stick to prod their herds into moving along.

  2. peggy oliver:

    How about a caterpillar that must get on the stick to complete it’s cycle to become a butterfly? Maybe?

  3. M Ross:

    One fun use of Google is to search for particular phrases in print. That’s note perfect standard because not everything is scanned and vocal expression usually predates written expression. At any rate, the first references to the phrase “get on the stick” are from:

    Business week: Issues 3300-3306 (1941) “European allies from Ireland to Italy are pleading with the burly Chancellor to get on the stick. “Our markets are sliding away,” says Hans-Jurgen Marczinski, managing director of Thyssen Maschinenbau.”

    The Compass of Sigma Gamma Epsilon: Volume 27 (1949) “For one thing, I will be able to tell the fellows back at State College that all those Texans and Californians are doing things, and we fellows back in the East had better get on the “stick,” so I will do my best to rejuvenate them.”

    By 1950, a definition has emerged from The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science: Volume 269 (1950) “To get on the stick: To work at the crap table, either as dealer or stick-man.”

    So… there you go.

  4. Rudy Stubbs:

    In musical terms, “get on the stick” means not to lag behind the beat of the director’s baton.

    On a more humorous note (pun intended)… My Dad told me the origin of “dirty end of the stick” (or as he put it, the “$hit end of the stick”) came from the days before indoor plumbing, there was a stick used to measure the level of (compost?) under the outhouse. As there was also no lights in the outhouse, you for sure didn’t want to pick up the dirty end of the stick. As the youngest of 13 brothers, he was often left holding the dirty end of the stick when his Bros would flip the stick in the dark corner where it was kept. Brothers haven’t changed all that much over the years, lol.

    Oh – for the unenlightened wondering why you would want to measure the level under the outhouse – moving the outhouse was one of those things you didn’t want to wait until the last minute to do when it was needed. It involved digging a fairly deep hole. That’s also why the term “solid as a brick outhouse” has kind of a dubious meaning.

  5. J. R. MacDonald:

    Where I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina (where there were still plenty of outhouses) instead of just “get on the stick”, we would say “I better get the shit on the stick.” I wonder if this is related? Another local gem was used when we talked about someone going very fast. We would say something like “They was goin’ down the road just a shitin’ an’ gitin’ it!”

  6. alberto:

    get on the stick was use by us kid back in the 1940’s

  7. Herb Reeves:

    While in college, in the era before calculators, I roomed with an engineering student. Our calculating device was the slide rule, which performed the basic mathemtical functions by inscribed logarithmic scales on both the body of the ruler and a “slide.”

    It was often referred to as a “stick,” and when we needed to get down and cram for an exam, we said we needed to “get on the stick.”

    I won’t argue that this is the source of the expression, but it fit the circumstances so well that it probably kept it alive for another generation or two.

  8. David:

    Perhaps it is referring to horse racing where the jockey has to go to the whip or “stick” to encourage the horse to finish strong.

  9. Tom:

    Pure speculation here.

    In former times watermen on coastal sounds, inland rivers and canals propelled their boats by poling, as do traditional Venetian gondoliers today. I wonder if the expression might be derived from a boat captain ordering a hand to pole harder.

    It would be interesting to learn if the usage distribution is more concentrated in areas where poling boats was common.

  10. Jay:

    When selling tobacco at the auction house they sell on the “stick” the selling is so fast you have to stay on the stick and keep up. Then at other auctions it spread and the auctioneers Ringman would say to the bidders we are selling on the stick or say to the bidders lets go ladies and gentleman get on the stick.

  11. Eva Roberts:

    This is an utterly American expression. Not part of English (as in “coming from England”)at all.

  12. Ericka:

    More speculation here. In his harrowing account of growing up in the brothels of San Diego, Horace Sonny remembered a visit with a John being referred to by the workers as a “stick.” I wonder if “get on the stick” could have been the refrain of the Madam, rallying the “girls” for another night’s work.

  13. Ben F:

    I wonder if “get on the stick” is a corruption of “get off the stick.” After all, one gets off the stick by getting unstuck.

    Alternatively, if “get on the stick” is the older expression, “get off the stick” could be a fusion of “get on the stick” and “get off the dime.”

  14. Anonymous:

    I feel it means Quit resting on the shovel handle and get back to work.

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