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"Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick"

Posted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 2:38 pm
by owlsfoot
Just an interesting tidbit of historical interest I came across the other day that I thought I would share: In searching for the origins of the phrase "to hit a straight lick with a crooked stick" (used by Hurston, et al.), I came across this early reference, by one Rev. Edward Corbet, England, 1642:

"Do not contemne thy weak brother. God can raise his thoughts, or direct his follie to a happie end, he can make him an Instrument of glorie, who is now a subject of weaknesse, and can strike a streight stroake with a crooked stick."

There are a couple of other mid- to late 17th Century variants of the phrase I found as well, all by English clergymen. The phrase may be a loose adaptation of a Biblical verse, a general Biblical reference, or an older bit of Anglo folklore--it may not be possible to trace out the precise origins. But apparently the phrase was brought to the States by English settlers, and was at some point adopted by African-American (and other) communities in the South, where it has enjoyed good use.

Ah, the fascinating twists and turns of folkloric history.

Re: "Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick"

Posted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 5:44 pm
by catherineyronwode
I have not known this to be an especially Black phrase -- i have heard it from White folks in the South.

Re: "Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick"

Posted: Fri Dec 10, 2010 11:09 pm
by owlsfoot
Cat: That's interesting. To this point I have personally only heard (or seen) Black folks use it. That must simply be circumstantial, then.

Re: "Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick"

Posted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 8:08 am
by Miss Bri
This is a saying that many in my family use and we are white. Well, technically we are a big old mess of different races, ethnicities, and cultures but on our census forms most of us are going to check the "caucasian" box :-)

Re: "Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick"

Posted: Wed Jan 01, 2014 8:45 pm
by Adde3
It is a phrase that originated in the black community during slavery but in some areas it made it's way into the general dialect of the south. I remember hearing old people say someone has a straight lick with a crooked stick usually when someone does something extraordinary.