Idioms: cut the mustard

A great quote in some recent copy:

"Our economic regeneration team has been sitting down and figuring out how to get this application to cut mustard"

Well, you could always laminate the application form – which would make it sturdier and possibly also mustard-proof. Or else you could print the application directly on to a knife or other cutting tool.

Seriously, all it took was for the idiom to be used slightly unusually ('cut mustard' instead of 'cut the mustard') and on first glance I read it literally rather than idiomatically. That's the danger of idioms – apart from totally confusing non-native speakers, of course.

And if you are interested in the origins of this idiom, the World Wide Words page on 'cut the mustard' is a good place to start – or else check out Yahoo! Answers for some alternative explanations.


Blue Pencil Editing said...

Are you familiar with the idiom "dressed to the hilt," which means "to dress up"? I used to work with a woman who said "dressed to the hip." I never knew whether she meant from the hip up or the hip down. A Google search for the origin turned up the following: The Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms says "to the hilt" means "as much as possible." All I found for "dressed to the hilt" were the lyrics to "Polythene Pam" by The Beatles ("she's killer diller when she's dressed to the hilt"). Maybe we should ask Mr. Quinion?

P.S. This blog is HILARIOUS. I love the words of the day.

JD (The Engine Room) said...

I've never heard 'dressed to the hilt', but as you say, other things can be '(up) to the hilt': the OED defines it as 'completely'. So it's not that strange.

Or perhaps she meant 'dressed up to the nines', or even 'dressed to kill', which would be appropriate idioms and sound (sort of) similar to 'dressed to the hilt'.

Perhaps the Beatles just liked it because it rhymes with kilt...

I'm glad you like the blog!