Posted by Gary Martin on March 04, 2006
In Reply to: Not feeling up to snuff posted by Bruce Kahl on March 04, 2006
: : : We are wondering what the origin of the phrase, "not feeling up to snuff" might be.
: : What you want to know, I presume, is how the meaning of the phrase relates to snuff. I can't tell you, as my paltry efforts to find out have not revealed the truth. I'll give you what Merriam Websters Online has to say and perhaps you'll find a clue.
: : "Main Entry: 6snuff
: : Function: noun
: : Etymology: Dutch snuf, short for snuftabak, from snuffen to snuff + tabak tobacco
: : 1 : a preparation of pulverized tobacco to be inhaled through the nostrils, chewed, or placed against the gums
: : 2 : the amount of snuff taken at one time
: : - up to snuff : of sufficient quality : meeting an applicable standard".
: : The OED has numerous examples of the use of "up to snuff," but nothing that would reveal the relationship to snuff. Perhaps, as the MWOD hints, one could get poor snuff or good snuff, and "up to snuff" meant up to the standard of good snuff. But why snuff? SS
: See link below.
I live near a snuff mill, which I can see from the window as I type, so I'll have a bash at this.
As I understand it, it is "up to snuff" because people who had recently taken snuff were alert and vigorous.
Taking tobacco as snuff isn't so admired today though - what with all that sneezing, and the dangers of passive snuffing.