What's in the dirt

Have dirt on the stick: idiom

Have you ever heard the German saying "Have dirt on the stick"? We'll tell you the story behind the saying and what it means

Dirt on the stick

Camilla looks out of the window with concentration and is thinking hard about the text of the dictation, which she has to write flawlessly in the German class, when suddenly a loud voice can be heard from behind her: "Hey, you just copied Leon, Camilla!" Melanie sits behind her and looks challengingly at her.

"That's not true at all. I looked out of the window and thought!" Replies Camilla and turns annoyed to her classmate Melanie. "Stop it. Now stop talking so loudly. The others can't concentrate! And head forward, Camilla!", Her teacher Mrs. Wolgemuth intervenes and looks at the girls sternly.

After the German lesson, Camilla goes straight to Leon during the break and would like to apologize for the incident: "I'm sorry, Leon. I really haven't copied from you. I have no idea why Melanie had to make such a riot ..."

But Leon just smiles at her and says: "I know that, Milli. No problem! Melanie constantly acts as if she has nothing to hide and as if she would never write off. . "Significantly, Leon casts a glance across the school yard and looks over at Melanie, who is sitting on a bench with two open math exercise books and seems to be writing something in her own exercise book ...

How the phrase "dirt on the stick" came about

Someone who is literally filthy has something to hide. If, for example, someone has got into debt or has acted immorally - then he has "dirt on the stick". A German idiom that has a very similar meaning is "to have a corpse in the cellar".

The phrase comes from a time when there were no paved roads. About five hundred years ago, only the driveways of large mansions or palaces were paved with stones. So the normal citizens, who were always out and about on foot, couldn't avoid dirty shoes. Especially in the rain and ice, the paths were very muddy and clean shoes were almost impossible.

So before you went into a clean house, you cleaned your shoes by scraping the dirt off your soles with a walking stick (a walking stick). So the shoes looked reasonably clean afterwards, but the stick was dirty afterwards and so betrayed that someone had to remove the dirt first. So the dirt was hanging on the stick!

Over time, this filth on the stick was linguistically associated with guilt. After all, figuratively speaking, the dirt was the opposite of that pure Innocence.