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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cut the mustard

Context #1

Who are you going to choose for the front desk staff position?
Wick: I’m not sure yet. Both candidates are smart, but neither can cut the mustard.
John: You have to pick one of them though, right?
Wick: Not if they can’t meet our standards.

Context #2

I’m not worried about next week’s competition at all.
Adrian: Why? You should never underestimate the abilities of an opponent.
Paulie: I know someone who’s been watching that team, and they say that their skills will never cut the mustard versus our team.
Adrian: Well if they can’t meet the expectations of the competition, they’re going to have a difficult time with our team.

Meaning: The expression "Cut the mustard" means to measure up to the standard or meet the expectation of something. (Usually this involves a set of skills, qualifications, and experiences).


  1. Thanks a whole lot for sharing guys ... We carried out a brief survey among our US contacts (not teachers!) and they suggested using phrases like 'cut it / make the cut / make the grade / pass muster / hack it / measure up to' to express the same idea ... Would it be correct to use them as completely synonymous? Or are there slight differences?

    Your Russian fans

    1. Thanks for the great question! Yeah, there are a lot of ways to say that someone/something doesn't "measure up" to a standard, and most of those pretty much mean the same thing. The only difference would be "couldn't hack it" and "didn't make the grade" which both mean that a person failed (there isn't a comparison to a standard). Otherwise, those expressions all basically mean the same thing ("cut the mustard" is more colorful and "pass muster" is a little old-fashioned - the others are all pretty synonymous).