draw the short straw

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draw straws

To decide something by picking at random from straws of different lengths. The person who pulls the shortest straw is usually the winner (or loser if they have "won" something unpleasant). Let's draw straws to decide who will go first—it's the only fair way to do it.
See also: draw, straw

draw the short straw

To obtain the least favorable, desirable, or fortunate outcome in a given selection. ("Drawing straws" is a technique for deciding something at random. The act of drawing straws does not have to occur for this phrase to be used.) I drew the short straw when it came to cleaning up after our shift last night. Our team drew the short straw and had to come in over the weekend to work on the revised proposal.
See also: draw, short, straw

draw the short straw

mainly BRITISH
If you draw the short straw, you are chosen from a number of people to do a task that nobody wants to do. I drew the short straw and had to take twenty kids to the park. Note: Other verbs such as get and pick are sometimes used instead of draw. Eales got the short straw and was in goal. Note: This expression comes from the practice of using pieces of straw to draw lots. One person holds several pieces of straw in their hand with the ends poking out. Each person in the group takes a piece of straw and the person with the shortest piece loses.
See also: draw, short, straw