If they've got the shitty end of the stick it means they've got a bad deal in some bargain or share-out. This doesn't seem particularly close to the wrong end meaning - so unless someone convinces me different, I'm not inclined to think these idioms share a common origin.
Does anyone know where either or both of these expressions come from?
Before toilet paper and Sears catalogs, there was a wooden spatula called the stick. If you were in the outhouse after dark and you had to find the stick in the dark, you had a good chance of finding the wrong, dirty, shitty end of the stick. Not everyone could afford candles or lanterns, and sometimes the wind would blow them out anyway.
When harnessing a matched team, one uses a stick called an "evener" attached by a pin at its center to the wagon or farm implement. Each end of the evener is attached to the harness of each draft animal. When pulling with 2 animals of different size (am unmatched team) one moves the location of the center hole (fulcrum) towards the side near the larger animal. Each animal is then pulling an amount of weight corresponding to its size, thus the term "evener". The larger animal is pulling more of the load because he has the "short end of the stick".
Nay, the stick with the shitty end was not used to clean oneself; it was used to knock over the pile of shit lest it become too high and reach the hole. Also, you would want the pile to be relatively flat so that you could dust it with ashes, and thus limit the smell. (Have you people never used an outhouse?)
The "stick" refers to a printer's stick when typeset were physical letters. A novice would often fill the printer stick in the wrong order, in which case, the print would not be as expected, e.g. "print" would appear as 'tnirp', hence, grabbing the wrong end of the stick.
According to "The Toilet - an unspoken history" - BBC documentary. Romans sat on communal outhouses - underneath them was running water (non-potable) that carried the waste away. In front of them was running water for washing. They would use sticks with sponges on them to clean their bum. Of course, if it was dark, they were in danger of grabbing the wrong end of the stick.
I had lots of questions after this - why weren't the sticks cleaned after each use? Why didn't people have their own personal sticks? What's the point of having two sets of channels for running water and cleanliness - only to have to use a dirty stick?
It "wrong end of the stick" comes from when a printer loads moveable type on the type form ("the stick") from the left facing up instead the right facing up. If you load from left you have the wrong end of tbe stick.
The short stick comes from when persons draw straws or sticks from a bunch to select sombody for duty or a reward.
Sesame is correct.
The shitty end of stick is to knock the top off the turd cone in an outhouse.
The outhouse has no lights so if I put the stick upside down, the next person might grab the shitty end of the stick.
'Grasp the wrong end of the stick'. I suspect that literalist explanations about sticks may be later, as the expression modulated in English from an earlier 'grasp the wrong end of the twig'. Double word-play here, twig from the Scottish Gaelic tuig = to understand.
Just watched a youtube video on the subject called the great stink! https://youtu.be/MJWLJxiWgDY It goes back to Romans and Hadrians Wall. There was a laddle used to wash your backside off. Sometimes, you could grab the "wrong end of the stick"
In the 1980's I led an ODA funded project to improve wast management and sanitation in Kumasi, Ghana' second city. One aspect of the project was to improve latrine design on which we cooperated with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Most villages around Kumasi could not afford water-borne sanitation and so used latrines which were run very efficiently as a village service. A field was reserved for the purpose an a block of latrines was in use until filled and then the buildings move progressively around the perimeter of the field and by the time a complete circuit had been made the original deposits had been composted. The huts were of quite sophisticated design, tepee like, with a funnel to a hole in the roof to create and air-draft to expell smell and insects. There was, of course, no toilet paper and neither the luxury of runnning water. Some places used large leaves but mostly each villager had their own stick which was left propped up outside rather like cues in a snooker hall. It was obviously important go hold the right end. There may of course be other derivations from other places but that was certainly the usage from Ghana. Geoff Mills
This phrase refers to a walking stick held upside down, which does not help a walker much. Originating in the 1400s as worse end of the staff, this term was changed to the current wording only in the late 1800s.
Alternative: The Romans invented the flush toilet, but not toilet paper; and their lavatories were communal affairs, where one would go and chew the fat over the day's happenings with whoever else was in at the time. Personal cleanliness was addressed with a cloth or a sponge which lived in a bowl of water at one end of the lavatorium, and which was passed from person to person by means of a stick. It is easy - if rather stomach-churning - to imagine someone deep in conversation not looking when the stick was passed to them, and therefore getting hold of the wrong end of it. Thanks to Robert Day. English for Students
A means to clean ones own behind. When Romans had slaves the stick was passed from slave to Roman and back again after use, hence someone (usually the slave) occasionally got the shitty end of the stick. Common in shared communal outhouses. I have seen period art depicting this also. If anyone has watched the tv series Spartacus then you would have seen some footage depicting this also. I would say that there would be many common references that this saying would have came from.