A cut above

Veera

Senior Member
India-Tamil & Telugu
Hi,

I found the meaning of the idiom – ‘a cut above’ from the source
Source: http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/a+cut+above.

I have searched our threads and I would like to get more information about this.
Is it correct to say “The updated document, which I have sent you yesterday is a cut above the previous one”.

Can I use it in a formal email?
Does it sound odd if I use it in formal mail?

Please share your thoughts on this.
Thanks in advance
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I would not use it in this context -- and have never heard it used like that. Why don't you use our "in context" feature to see how it is used?

    Click a cut above ... then click the "in context" link. In my experience, you don't hear it much anymore, and I notice on the first page of "in context" results, you see it used regarding meat and diamonds, where it's a play on the word "cut" -- as in a good cut of meat, or the cut of a diamond.

    My recommendation: remember the expression in case you see it, but don't bother using it.
     

    Veera

    Senior Member
    India-Tamil & Telugu
    Thank you all!. Thank you copyright for your help. I didn't notice the link "in context" feature available in this forum. Thanks to pointing out. It really helps me lot. This thread is a cut above the rest of my other threads to find out such a useful link "in context". :)
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    In my experience, you don't hear it much anymore, and I notice on the first page of "in context" results, you see it used regarding meat and diamonds, where it's a play on the word "cut" -- as in a good cut of meat, or the cut of a diamond.
    I don't really agree with that. "a cut above" can mean anything.

    That said, it is odd, as Beryl says. It's not good for a formal e-mail, in my humble opinion. It's an interesting question, Veera.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I don't really agree with that. "a cut above" can mean anything.
    I'm not sure what you don't agree with. I don't think you hear it much (in my experience, as I said). And I just mentioned that the first page of results featured some questionable copy and headlines about diamonds and meat. I was pointing out what I read, not the limitations of the expression.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    I just mean that it's heard, it's not limited to meat or diamonds, and it's used as the name for beauty shops also.

    The way Veera uses it is fine, though not common, by me.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I just mean that it's heard, it's not limited to meat or diamonds, and it's used as the name for beauty shops also.
    I never suggested it was limited to meat or diamonds, but your beauty salon reference -- as in haircut (a cut above) -- is yet another example of the too-cute usage of the expression that is seen often enough to make you think twice about using it in serious writing or conversation.
     

    perpend

    Banned
    American English
    I think I've expressed my opinion enough, Copyright, regarding not frequently using the phrase, but do you say yea or nay to Veera's #4 usage?

    I can't find anything against "a cut above" in neither the OP, nor in #4.
     

    Veera

    Senior Member
    India-Tamil & Telugu
    Thank you all for your valuable comments. Thanks to perpend and copyright. Now its clear for me the usage of phrase in appropriate place.
     

    pwmeek

    Senior Member
    English - American
    (AE) I think it can be used in both formal and informal speech and writing. It is a set phrase (you shouldn't alter it, and you should think carefully before qualifying it) that nicely expresses relative levels of quality. (It does lend itself to word-play associations with things that are cut, so you will see it in advertisements, as Copyright has noted.)

    The only limit I would place is that is should only be used when the subject is actually a significant amount better than what it is compared to. I wouldn't use it to mean merely better; it should indicate a full step better. Veera, unless your new version of the document is truly on a new level of quality, I would reserve this phrase for when it is needed.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have always thought the expression came from tailoring, and was of a piece with cut from the same cloth. A cut above is found in Dickens and Trollope and H.G.Wells, but wasn't used much in the 18th century, as far as I can gather.

    Here are the ngrams for the two expressions.

    I don't think the use of a cut above in the OP is out of the question, but it does alter the register rather surprisingly.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I think the etymology is vague on the phrase. I used to think it had to do with tailoring too. But I've read a variety of explanations, including bread baked directly on the hearth. The very bottom of the loaf would be embedded with grit. So taking a slice off the bottom would yield a clean piece of bread; hence "a cut above". It sounds a bit too cute to be true, however. And any of many other explanations could make equal sense. You have the "cut of the suit", "the cut of the jib", and "the cut of his beard", all of which could be the origin.

    But regardless of the origin, "a cut above" means a level of quality that is better than is normally seen or is typically available.


    For example: Packard's posts are always a cut above.:D
     

    lgr632525968

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Hi, everyone.

    I wonder if "a cut above" can be used in this context.

    He is very arrogant and seldom talks to his neighbors. He thinks he is a cut above others.

    Thank you.
     

    Nomenclature

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Hi, everyone.

    I wonder if "a cut above" can be used in this context.

    He is very arrogant and seldom talks to his neighbors. He thinks he is a cut above others.

    Thank you.
    I'm going to tentatively say no. It sounds okay to me, but I feel as though this idiom is used to refer to more to objects (and the quality of the object) than people. It probably is a legacy of the original usage whether sartorial or referring to meat. I would like to know other native speakers' opinions on this though.

    I would probably just use "He thinks he is above the others". It conveys the same idea.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I wonder if "a cut above" can be used in this context.

    He is very arrogant and seldom talks to his neighbors. He thinks he is a cut above others.
    I don't care for any form of "cut above" in this context. One common way of expressing this in AE is: He thinks he's better than anyone/everyone else.
     

    lgr632525968

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I think, with a little correction, you can arrive at something that works in the given context: 'He thinks he is a cut above the rest'.
    Thank you, Beryl.

    He thinks he is a cut above the rest.
    He thinks he is a cut above others.

    Why is the first one correct and idiomatic while the second is odd? Is " a cut above the rest" a set phrase?
    Would you mind giving me more explanations?
     

    EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    The BNC/COCA results are inconclusive as to whether there would exist a BE/AE difference in usage of 'a cut above the rest', at least in the direction suggested hitherto.

    BNC has altogether 8 instances of the phrase, of which two refer to people, of which one is not a pun:
    .
    She had taken it into her head to befriend the new lass whom she considered to be a cut above the rest -- which is to say, she didn't curse or spit. A twist of fate, Pamela Scobie, 1990.​
    .
    COCA has 14 instances of the phrase, of which seven refer to people, of which none seems to be a pun, for example:
    .
    "When we read that first manuscript," says Morrow's Michael Morrison," it was clear that she was a cut above the rest of the other writers today." Atlanta Journal Constitution, 2003.​
     
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