Cut the mustard

< Previous | Next >

jasoncang

Member
China, Mandarin
Hi,

Can somebody please explain what this phrase means? I'm not quoting the context because it seems this is quite a common expression, as Google shows.

Thanks,
JC
 
  • swyves

    Senior Member
    UK English, Living in Peru
    It means to "be up to scratch", if you understand that phrase :)

    I've heard it said that it's a corruption of "cut the muster", i.e. be up to the necessary standard for a military muster parade.
     

    Tabac

    Senior Member
    U. S. - English
    Swyves is correct, I think, on both counts. If it is the word "proverbial" that is bothering you, take it out and you have the full meaning. Its use here is just to assure the audience that the speaker realizes the expression is idiomatic, proverbial in nature, not to be taken literally.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Tabac said:
    Swyves is correct, I think, on both counts. If it is the word "proverbial" that is bothering you, take it out and you have the full meaning. Its use here is just to assure the audience that the speaker realizes the expression is idiomatic, proverbial in nature, not to be taken literally.
    The word "proverbial" is sometimes inserted into a cliché just before a noun to let the listeners know that the speaker is using a cliché for humorous purposes, that she is aware that is somewhat banal. Thus:

    cut the proverbial mustard
    got hold of the wrong end of the proverbial stick
    wake up and smell the proverbial coffee

    and so on.
     

    ksequen

    Banned
    Guatemala, Spanish
    My dictionary says "cut the mustard":
    Come up to expectations; reach the required standard.

    I'm trying to use this idiom in the following paragraph:

    ----------------
    I guess the hardest part is that your parents expect too much from you. (At least this is my case) Sometimes it's really hard to cut the mustard...
    ----------------

    Is it correctly used? Is it outdated? :confused:

    Thanks!
     

    Hockey13

    Senior Member
    AmEnglish/German
    My dictionary says "cut the mustard":
    Come up to expectations; reach the required standard.

    I'm trying to use this idiom in the following paragraph:

    ----------------
    I guess the hardest part is that your parents expect too much from you. (At least this is my case) Sometimes it's really hard to cut the mustard...
    ----------------

    Is it correctly used? Is it outdated? :confused:

    Thanks!
    Yes this makes sense to me, but I have never used it in my life. It seems either outdated or kind of cheesy. It's certainly not for formal writing, but for dialogue writing you could use it.
     

    french4beth

    Senior Member
    US-English
    Hi ksequen,

    I wouldn't use that particular idiom; this idiom is not really used that much any more, and it doesn't really fit into the context of your example.

    I found the following definition on thefreedictionary.com:
    cut the mustard:[idioms]To perform up to expectations or to a required standard.
    I found an explanation of the phrase here. This article suggests that "doesn't cut it" is a more modern version.

    Here are a couple of examples of the phrase "cut the mustard" (found here):
    When you are not able to perform at the required level, you can't cut the mustard.Example: "Did you hear that Williams got fired?" Reply: "Yes. He couldn't cut the mustard."
    If you don't work hard enough, or if you just aren't good enough, you can't cut the mustard. Example: "So, do you think you will be able to cut the mustard?"
     

    chat9998

    Senior Member
    English, US
    Hi,

    I agree with Hockey... I have never used it or heard it, either. But it makes sense. But it does seem outdated, and I would call it mustardy, not cheesy. ;) (Sorry, couldn't resist).

    Anyway, you'd be better off to use one of the aforementioned suggestions... or try and look up others. There are hundreds of idioms that fit this situation well! :)

    Hope we've helped!
    God bless,
    Jeff
     

    xtrasystole

    Senior Member
    France
    Hello everyone,

    I came across this text (below) that features several unfamiliar expressions to me.

    So what does 'cut the mustard' mean? What does it imply to you native English-speakers? Is it just a more polite variant of 'cut the crap'?


    Thanks a lot in advance :)

    -------------------------
    "Bush just can't cut the mustard. He's like an over-the-hill Nero, so full of himself that he can't see the world around him. The military is deteriorating before his eyes. He's got us stuck in two countries with no exit strategy." Source
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    It's not the same as "cut the crap." If it doesn't "cut the mustard" means that something or someone doesn't measure up to expectations or is unable to carry his or her load. It's substandard, unacceptable. I think I've only heard it in the negative. I don't know its origin, but it's a common expression.

    It can be used for a variety of things: a child's excuse for poor grades; an athlete's performance; a craftsman's workmanship; a factory's output.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I think can't cut the mustard usually means can't do the job he's supposed to do, isn't fit to do the job
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Here's an interesting discussion of the origin of "cut the mustard", on a site I respect. In short, they say they aren't sure of the origin of this phrase, but that it may be related to an earlier use of "mustard" to denote "the best of anything".
     

    echanomi

    Member
    England - English
    i think it tends to be used now with the phrase "do the business". the two are completely interchangeable
     

    Bonjules

    Senior Member
    German
    Hola,
    it's a degredation of the word 'muster'.
    It's not up to standard, (' up to speed'), it won't pass/cut 'muster'.
    That's what I heard anyway.
    saludos
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    By way of an example, there was a popular song in the early '50s (pre-rock) sung by Rosemary Clooney (I believe) that was called "He's too old to cut the mustard any more."

    See HERE

    (I suppose the fact that I'm old enough to remember it makes it applicable to me. Oh well).
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    <<Moderator note.
    The current thread on this topic has been merged with existing threads on the same topic.
    As a result, you will see that some of the points raised, and the links provided, are duplicated.

    Please remember to use the forum search facilities before starting a new thread.
    panjandrum >>
     

    xtrasystole

    Senior Member
    France
    Thank you all kindly for all the info and links :)
    and sorry for the duplicate (I did try the Search function but wasn't able to find anything... :( )
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    I found this expression, "cut the mustard", in a work by a British writer. Don't remember having encountered it in US media, despite the fact that I have just read online (http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/cut-the-mustard.html) that it originated in the US. My question: is it used a lot in the US or elsewhere (Canada, Australia, etc. -- other than the UK)? I'm asking because I've only come across the derived phrase "cut it".

    Thanks a bunch.
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    This is another colloquialism that is rather old-fashioned. It is still used in my world but only by those "of a certain age".

    I've always assumed that the use of "can't cut it" in current language is derived from "can't cut the mustard".
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Dare I say that Can he cut the mustard? is known to me as dog-breeders' slang to ask if he (a male dog) is experienced enough to manage a bitch on heat? There's no point in taking a bitch many miles to mate with a male dog which can't cut the mustard. There's an important difference among male dogs between those which are masterful with bitches, and those which don't really have enough self-assertion and experience to overcome an awkward bitch's unwillingness. If anyone says that they've not had any difficulty breeding pekineses, I ought to add that I only know about mating salukis, and saluki bitches often have strong views about this whole matter and would seriously damage a male dog who didn't know how to cut the mustard - I can't think of a better way of putting it.

    As such it goes a bit further than the meaning suggested earlier - to perform up to specifications. It's quite jocular slang, and useful.

    I wonder if Wilma will tell us if this is applicable to horses too.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top