I came across the idiom, “get hold of the wrong end of the stick” in the following sentence of the scene where Barry Calvert, an FBI agent tells his colleague, Mark Andrews about the statement of an illegal Greek immigrant on suspected assassination scheme in Jeffery Archer’s fiction, “Shall we tell the President” P.37:
“I don’t believe a word of it,” Barry said immediately. “With his English, he could easily have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. It was probably quite innocent. People curse the President all the time. My father does, but that doesn’t mean he would kill her.”
I checked the meaning of “get hold of the wrong end of the stick” with a couple of dictionaries:
Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “to not understand a situation correctly.”
The FreeDictionary defines it exactly in the same way as Cambridge - “(informal). to not understand a situation correctly”
Kenkyusha Publishing’s Readers English Japanese Dictionary defines it as “make an error of the judgment (of situation).
While the definitions of the above three English and English Japanese dictionaries are all “Situation specific,” Collins English Dictionary defines it as “a complete misunderstanding of a situation, explanation, etc.”
Can I use “get hold of the wrong end of the stick other than a “situation,” e.g. for meaning of word(s), message, statement, somebody’s notion, view, intent, and idea? Can I say “I get hold of the wrong end of the stick on his remarks (or instructions)”?
Secondarily, what is the origin of this idiom?
I was reminded of that I dropped “end of the” from “get hold of the wrong end of the stick by TimLymington's advice.
It’s careless but a great mistake that occurred when I was transcribing the original text of Archer’s fiction. My apology.
I suspected if I should cancel this question. However, the definitions of all dictionaries of the idiom, and my question about whether the idiom is “situation specific,” or not remain the same. So I ventured to leave it as it is by making necessary corrections.