phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

"Cutting Corners"

Posted by R. Berg on May 13, 2006

In Reply to: "Cutting Corners" posted by R. Berg on May 13, 2006

: : : Where did the phrase "Cutting Corners" come from?

: : It's a metaphor from driving - not necessarily motor driving, because it also applies to horse-drawn carriages. When you come to a sharp turn in the road, instead of going all the way to the corner and then turning, you can go diagonally across, and "cut the corner off". This saves time, but entails a risk of clipping the kerb and overturning, or being involved in a pile-up with another vehicle. Thus "to cut corners" means to discard normal safe practice in order to get fast results.

: The OED gives that definition for "cut *off* a corner" in the literal sense without (at least in the 1st ed.) extending it to a figurative one. In the U.S., cutting corners means applying economy measures inappropriately, such as using cheap materials in a product or not checking details. ~rb

P.S.: I always assumed it came from tailoring. When cutting out the pieces for a garment, one might round off corners to get more pieces from a length of cloth and thus save fabric. Of course, "I always assumed" isn't evidence.

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