Cutting the Mustard

There are phrases in the English language that make me wonder what a person was on when they first spoke the words. It also makes me wonder what the rest of us were on to continue to  use them. Such a phrase is the anuyerism inspiring ‘Cut the Mustard.”

By catsup, what does it mean?

Apparently it means to do satisfactorily, to perform a job well. Well, gee that’s easy to understand just by looking at it. NOT!

Since I am on vacation today, I decided to look up where the phrase comes from. Hmm, no one else seems to know and there are those who have a newspaper dating nearly a decade before O Henry’s use that reference it, meaning it was in use before either were used.

So, as a breakdown, mustard being a spicy condiment had to be cut with vinegar to reduce the bitterness. Early on, have mustard (not in your fridge as those weren’t invented yet) meant you were energenic. So I guess all those hyperactive people being asked to tone it down to a normal level?

Don’t think about it too much as your head might explode.

The other reference is an adulteration of ‘cut the muster’ as in dodging the mustering up of your unit/platoon/band of soldiers. Given the current nature of the sayings interpretation, this wouldn’t be either satisfactory or honorable unless you were a pacificist. So this doesn’t seem likely either

Others have made reference to the fact that cutting mustard at the table is easier than cutting butter. And I can’t for life of me figure out how this matters, unless Bob was laughing at a  dinner guest who was so drunk he couldn’t cut the mustard.

So for the sake of my sanity, I’m not going to think about what it means and how it came into being.

About Linda Andrews

Linda Andrews lives with her husband and three children in Phoenix, Arizona. When she announced to her family that her paranormal romance was to be published, her sister pronounce: "What else would she write? She’s never been normal." All kidding aside, writing has become a surprising passion. So just how did a scientist start to write paranormal romances? What other option is there when you’re married to romantic man and live in a haunted house? If you’ve enjoyed her stories or want to share your own paranormal experience feel free to email the author at She’d love to hear from you.
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2 Responses to Cutting the Mustard

  1. Pete Denton says:

    Great post. There are numerous phrases like that in the English language that don’t make sense. But the one you highlight is a good one. Don’t let it explode your head 🙂

  2. I won’t. I have a flip top skull. Then I can just scoop up all the brains and put them back in:-)

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