Idiot stick

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"Idiot stick" is a remarkably flexible piece of American slang. It refers to any vaguely stick-shaped tool used by someone who really ought to find something better to do. I first encountered the term as Depression-era slang referring to a shovel used by ditch-diggers: "An idiot stick is a stick with an idiot at one end and an idiot at the other." However, it's also been used to refer to a hoe, a derisive reference to people who would spend all day in the fields when they could escape to the big city.

In the VietNam war, the term had two meanings. It could be used to refer to an infantryman's rifle, or to the yoke used by the Vietnamese to carry buckets or baskets (see

Some people also use "idiot stick" to refer to the very old style of semaphore turn signals used on VW beetles in the early years (see

Steve Dean wrote an SF short story titled "The Idiot Stick", and Damon Knight did one titled "Idiot Stick". As I haven't read either one, though, I don't know which meaning they were using.

Finally, "idiot stick" has also been used to refer to the old comic slapstick from vaudeville days: "Like slapstick comedians straight out of vaudeville, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission members hit themselves with an idiot stick Monday when they voted to recommend banning college sports betting in America. " (That's from

All, in all, a remarkably flexible pair of words.

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