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Cutting it close

Posted by Markitos on July 31, 2001

In Reply to: Cutting it close posted by R. Berg on July 27, 2001

: : Anyone able to offer the meaning and origin for this expresion?

: "Cutting it close" often occurs in the context of working against a deadline. Suppose your brilliant, satirical 100-page commentary on the trials of free-lance work must hit the publisher's in-box by Monday morning or miss publication. You start outlining it on Thursday evening, stiffly maintaining a state of denial vis-a-vis the likelihood of delays caused by lack of inspiration, household accidents, power outages, not having an envelope the right size, traffic jams on the way to the post office, surprise armadillo infestations, time taken to ingest stimulants, or the need to eat and sleep. That's cutting it close. You should have started Wednesday morning.

: To cut it close means to not leave enough margin. My guess is it's by analogy with cutting pieces out of cloth in garment making.

Obviously it's a multiuse phrase (who'd of thunk there'd be an unanticipated armadillo infestation--but then, who'd ever expect an armadillo infestation?)--I thought it had its origins in tailoring as well, or carpentry, where if you cut too close to the line you've drawn you leave no margin for error--as in measure twice, cut once. Cut too close to the line and your work is wasted.