To “cut to the chase” means to get directly to the point, leaving out all of the unnecessary details.
Example: I know you’re busy, so to save us both time, I’ll cut to the chase—there’s a problem with our car, so I’m leaving to go have it repaired.
The Origin Of ‘Cut To The Chase’
The origin of this phrase is believed to be from silent films of the 1920s. Silent films, as the name implies, do not have any sound or spoken dialogue; they’re silent! The acting was done with facial expressions and gestures. Often times, these films told of romantic stories that would eventually climax into a chasing sequence.
According to The Phrase Finder, this phrase was written in Joseph Patrick Mcevoy’s novel Hollywood Girl, 1929, as a script direction:
“Jannings escapes… Cut to chase.”
So it would seem that this phrase started out being a part of film scripts. But what about the figurative meaning of this expression, when did that start to emerge? Well, the earliest I could find of it being used outside the context of film chasing sequences, in the sense of ‘getting directly to the point,’ is sometime during the 1940s. For example, the expression is written in The Berkshire Evening Eagle newspaper from the year 1947:
“Let’s cut to the chase. There will be no tax relief this year.”
So it looks like this phrase has only existed as an idiom for less than 100 years.
- Will you just cut to the chase and tell me about the bizarre incident you encountered while shopping at the grocery store?
- I know you are busy with work, so I’ll keep it brief by immediately cutting to the chase—our car has a flat tire, but don’t worry, I can fix it within the hour.
Note: Sometimes a phrase’s origin is unclear. So, if this happens, what I’ll usually do is find the oldest citations of the phrase that I can. These will then be included on the phrase’s page. These quotes can give an idea on how old it is.
So, to give an example, if the citation you see on the page is from a book from 1600, then you know the idiom is at least 400 years old.