carrot on a stick/the carrot or the stick
dictionaries agree—the expression refers to offering to reward a
stubborn mule or donkey with a carrot or threatening to beat it with a
stick and not to a carrot being dangled from a stick. For me, the
clincher is that no one actually cites the form of the “original
expression.” In what imaginable context would it possibly be witty or
memorable to say that someone or something had been motivated by a
carrot on a stick? Why not an apple on a stick, or a bag of oats?
Boring, right? Not something likely to pass into popular usage. This
saying belongs to the same general family as “You can draw more flies
with honey than with vinegar.” It is never used except when such
contrast is implied.
is the ten-year anniversary of the Common Errors in English Usage
calendar. To celebrate, we are bringing back some of our favorite
interesting, funny, but sometimes merely silly entries through the years
before going on hiatus in 2016.
Enjoy the calendar? Buy the book!