There is a BE idiom:

  • get (hold of) the wrong end of the stick.

Which means: "to not understand a situation correctly."

I was wondering if it sounds natural to Americans as well. If no, then I wonder what is the AE equivalent for that.

  • 1
    I'm Canadian and I'm familiar with the idiom, but it's not that common. I can't think of any more common idiom than that though, but it is common to say, "You've got it backwards" or "You've got it all wrong".
    – gotube
    Nov 2, 2022 at 13:01
  • 1
    I'm American, and my opinion is very similar to gotube's.
    – stangdon
    Nov 2, 2022 at 14:08

1 Answer 1


I don't think it's a commonly used idiom in American English. The idiom "get the short end of the stick" is more common, but it has a totally different meaning.

Here are some (of many) different ways to express the thought:

You have the wrong idea.

You have it all wrong.

You've got it backwards.

It's not like that.

  • How about: - "You've got it backwards" or - "You've got it (all / exactly) wrong" or - "You've got it ass-backwards" pr - "You've got it bass-ackwards" @swmcdonnell? Which one do you think fits better here and why?
    – A-friend
    Nov 6, 2022 at 9:05
  • I modified my answer to include more alternatives. Nov 6, 2022 at 12:59

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