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Cut the mustard

Posted by ESC on January 15, 2000

In Reply to: Cut the mustard posted by ginger strauss on January 15, 2000

: what's the derivation of "cut the mustard"??

CUT THE MUSTARD -- From "Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, 1982), "Mustard came into English in the 13th century from the French (going back to Latin mustum, grape juice, originally used for mixing ground mustard seeds into a paste). By the War of 1812 'mustard seed shot' was an American term for small-gauge shot. Between 1900 and 1910, when commercially bottled mustard became popular, 'mustard' appeared in several slang expressions that used the strength of the condiment as a metaphor: 'to be the proper mustard' meant to be the genuine article, 'to be all mustard' meant to be excellent, and 'to be up to the mustard' and 'to cut the mustard' both meant to come up to expectations. Since World War I the last expression has been used almost exclusively in the negative 'he can't cut the mustard' - and among many men is used to mean unable to have an erection, to be unable to perform sexually."

From the "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" (Second Edition, HarperCollins, 1977) by William and Mary Morris: "cut the mustard -- was originally a Western expression, popular among cowboys during the late nineteenth century. If something was 'the proper mustard,' it was O.K., the genuine article. Andy Adams used the expression this way in his famous 'Log of a Cowboy,' when he wrote that 'for fear the two dogs were not the proper mustard, he had that dog man sue him in court to make him prove the pedigree.' And Carl Sandburg once wrote: 'Kid each other, you cheapskates. Tell each other you're all to the mustard." Then expression cut the mustard then came into vogue."