Cut The Mustard---meaning of the phrase?
Why cutting mustard was chosen as an example of high quality is unclear. As always in such circumstances, there are no shortage of guesses. Some of these allude to the literal difficulty of cutting mustard in its various forms; for example:
- Mustard seed, which is hard to cut with a knife on account of its being small and shiny.
- Mustard plants, which are tough and stringy and grow densely.
- Culinary mustard, which is cut (diluted) and made more palatable by the addition of vinegar.
- Dried mustard paste, which was reputedly used to coat meat and then dried to form a crust.
There is no evidence to support these derivations and they give the impression of having been retro-fitted in an attempt at plausibility.
Another supposed explanation is that the phrase is simply a mistaken version of the military expression 'cut the muster'. This appears believable at first sight. A little research shows it not to be so. Muster is the calling ...more