From Middle English stighteler, stytelere, equivalent to stickle + -er. The judges at Cornish wrestling matches do indeed carry sticks which serve for signalling and as a badge of their office. This practice has evolved from holding swords and then swordsticks.
stickler (plural sticklers)
- (now only Cornwall) A referee or adjudicator at a fight, wrestling match, duel, etc. who ensures fair play. [from 16th c.]
- 1603, Michel de Montaigne, chapter 27, in John Florio, transl., The Essayes […], book II, London: […] Val[entine] Simmes for Edward Blount […], OCLC 946730821:
- In ancient time they were wont to employ third persons as sticklers, to see no treachery or disorder were used, and to beare witnes of the combates successe.
- c. 1580, Philippe Sidnei [i.e., Philip Sidney], “[The First Booke] Chapter 1”, in Fulke Greville, Matthew Gwinne, and John Florio, editors, The Covntesse of Pembrokes Arcadia [The New Arcadia], London: […] [John Windet] for William Ponsonbie, published 1590, OCLC 801077108; republished in Albert Feuillerat, editor, The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia (Cambridge English Classics: The Complete Works of Sir Philip Sidney; I), Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: University Press, 1912, OCLC 318419127, page 105:
- Basilius, the judge, appointed sticklers and trumpets whom the others should obey.
- 1658, John Dryden, Stanza to Oliver Cromwell
- Our former chiefs, like sticklers of the war, / First sought to inflame the parties, then to poise.
- Someone who insistently advocates for something. [from 17th c.]
- Synonyms: dogmatist, formalist, pedant, traditionalist
- Lexicographers are sticklers for correct language.