Cutting mustard

… no, nobody is actually cutting any mustard here.  This is not a blog about table manners.  Cut the mustard is an idiom that means to succeed, to live up to the expectations,  to have the adequate skills to perform a task.

A very literal take on "cut the mustard", pic: gaminglives.com

The idiom is often used in the negative form “he didn’t cut the mustard” to indicate that somebody did not live up to the expectations that where set into him or her.  As such it is a fairly mild way of saying that somebody failed.  The expression can therefore be used in conversations as long as they aren’t very formal.  The idiom is not particularly frequently used and certainly not hip – but even if you don’t ever use it, it is important to understand it.

The origin of the idiom is unclear and there is speculation abound what mustard has to do with performing at the expected level.  The most reasonable – and least interesting – explanation I found was that simply a mistaken version of the military term cut the muster.    It looks like we might never know – and that is okay.

Here is an example:

“They had to let Phillipe go.  He just didn’t cut the mustard.”

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