[Ads-l] cut the mustard

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 3 17:57:39 UTC 2014

The website Ben pointed to recently has an interesting article about
"cut the mustard" that was posted a two days ago. The article was an
update of an article that was posted back in May 2014.

The phrases "cut the mustard" and "cut the muster" were discussed on
the ADS list in July 2011.

Website: Early Sports and Pop Culture History Blog
Date: May 5, 2014
Article: History and Etymology of "Cut the Mustard" - Locusts, Bad
Seeds, Invasive Species and Politics


[Begin excerpt]
A thorough review of recently uncovered, early uses of the phrase in
print, however, suggests that the idiom alludes to being diligent in
the regular cutting of mustard plants in an effort to limit crop
losses due to the plant.  The idiom also appears to have been borne of
a natural disaster of biblical proportions.
[End excerpt]

Website: Early Sports and Pop Culture History Blog
Date: December 1, 2014
Article: "Cut the Mustard" Update



On Wed, Jul 6, 2011 at 5:47 AM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> Subject:      cut the mustard
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Might "cut the mustard" once have meant cutting a path through overgrown mustard weeds,
> getting out of a rough patch, ability to escape a fix? If so, comparisons to
> mustard quality and to muster may have come later.
> The 19th-century US West left stories sf mustard thickets. The Nation 49 (1889) 308 tells of mustard plants eleven feet high.
> A fellow reportedly "once got lost _on horseback_ in a wild-mustard field."
> In another history,"Undaunted, Spurgeon [circa 1874?] cut a road through the wild mustard
> and induced the stage operators to come to his city."
> (Orange County through four centuries, 60.)
> The OED' s first quote in context:
> 1891 The Galveston Daily News,  April 9; pg. 4;  col C
>   "The Nebraska legislators ran high jinks out of the city on the night of their adjournment.
> They applied several coats of carmine hue and cut the mustard over all their predecessors."
> Did they "paint the town red," then quickly leave?
> 1894 McClure's magazine, Volume 2, p.253
> "I never killed anybody, though they say I did. It was a frame on me, absotively. I cut the mustard, and
> they caught me in Key West." [escaped]
> 1907 Agricultural advertising: Volume 18 - Page 199
> "Loosen up and let the politicians, the bulls and bears of Wall Street, and calamity magazine publishers
>  go over in the back lot and kick each others' slats in while we cut the mustard." [while we get out of there?]
> 1909 Hunter-trader-trapper: Volume 17, Issue 5 - Page 101
> "The live coyote we tied to the buggy wheel, and while I was gone after a strap and chain he bit the rope off
> and "cut the mustard" for parts unknown with about a foot of rope still hanging to him." [escaped]
> Stephen Goranson
> http://www.duke.edu/~goranson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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