The expression cut the mustard means that someone or something meets the required standards. In other words, they matched the qualifications being looked for; they filled expectations.
Example: I am shopping for a new vacuum; I’m searching for one that is slimmer, lighter, and more flexible than my old one. After some research, I finally settled on one and so far it has cut the mustard. (To put it another way, the vacuum measured up to the standards I was looking for.)
The Origin Of ‘Cut The Mustard’
The origin of this phrase is unclear. The earliest appearance of this saying in print (that I could find) is from a writer named O. Henry, who wrote many stories near the beginning of the 20th century. In one of them, which is believed to have been written around the year 1909, it reads:
“She cut the mustard.”
However, according to The Phrase Finder, there’s an earlier example of this saying appearing in print. This example is from a newspaper called The Ottawa Herald, 1889:
“He tried to run the post office business under Cleveland’s administration, but ‘couldn’t cut the mustard.’ “
So this phrase is at least 130 years old.
Some people find the phrase ‘cut the mustard’ funny because they imagine it in a literal sense. This expression is on our list of funny old sayings, so check it out to see more like it.
- Due to my back problems, my doctor suggested I buy a new chair with better lumbar support. Well, I did that and I have to say, the chair I bought has really cut the mustard.
- I’m searching for a new home, but the ones I’ve looked at so far are not cutting the mustard. I’m beginning to doubt that I’ll find something suitable in this part of town.
- This digital piano does not fit the bill; I need one that has weighted keys!
- After several attempts, I finally created a paper airplane that made the cut.