LINGUIST List 10.355

Fri Mar 5 1999

Disc: "Cutting the mustard"

Editor for this issue: Jody Huellmantel <jodylinguistlist.org>


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  1. MARC PICARD, Re: 10.342, Disc: "Cutting the mustard"

Message 1: Re: 10.342, Disc: "Cutting the mustard"

Date: Fri, 05 Mar 1999 09:49:24 -0500
From: MARC PICARD <picardvax2.concordia.ca>
Subject: Re: 10.342, Disc: "Cutting the mustard"

Ed Plaisance wrote:

> I have always understood the origin of the phrase to be "cut the muster"
> from the military context, as in "pass muster". Popular usage and
> etymology and has rendered it as "cut the mustard". The 1976 Webster's
> NID in the office here has both. The Collegiate Ninth Edition (1983) has
> only the latter. I guess that the term "muster" has fallen out of usage
> since colonial days, and people assume the term is related to actually
> harvesting the mustard plant.

The phrase *cut the muster* has never existed. The modern expression
*can't cut the mustard* derives from *to be the mustard* in which
*mustard* meant 'genuine article' or 'main attraction'. Further
details can be found in Robert Hendrickson's THE FACTS ON FILE
ENCYCLOPEDIA OR WORD AND PHRASE ORIGINS.

Marc Picard
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