I have heard this phrase in the House of Cards (1990`s) TV series, and Google does not lead to any good explanation.

To my mind, the main character is using this phrase when he intends to make the things go as he wants to.

  • About is used to indicate movement in British English. Stick seems to mean a threat of punishment (contrast it with carrot) or unwelcome measures. If someone moves a stick around your head or body, you will get scared and do whatever he wants or orders you to do.
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 19, 2016 at 9:02
  • My pleasure. Please make sure you include some context (more sentences before and after the phrase) and your own research efforts when you ask another question. Please read the link. english.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic
    – user140086
    Commented Nov 19, 2016 at 21:06
  • I wonder if it is related to the practise in the British Army of Officers and NCOs carrying Pace and Swagger sticks as symbols of office?en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pace_stick. Originally they were also used to strike lower ranks when giving orders if not followed quickly enough. A man like Urquhart would have thought of himself as similar to the officer class.
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 0:44

2 Answers 2


It means to make a display or threat of violence usually to maintain discipline or keep people cowed and submissive.

  • Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.
    – NVZ
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 20:04

It is an idiomatic expression close in meaning to "throw a spanner in the works". The idea is that of influencing or manipulating someone or something to your one's own advantage,

  • to do something that prevents a plan or activity from succeeding.

Cambridge Dictionary

  • The Whips Office is probably the most mysterious and intriguing office in Westminster - the place where secrets are kept and bodies buried. There are dozens of idioms attached to it - ‘A meeting without coffee’, ‘Put a bit of stick about’, ‘the black book’ or ‘you might well think that, I couldn’t possibly comment’.

From (www.totalpolitics.com)

  • @Hoborg to throw a spanner in the works is not close in meaning to put a bit of stick about Commented Nov 24, 2016 at 12:49

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