I Thought the Phrase Was ‘Cut the Cheese’

A couple language links:

  1. Today, I learned of the Big Bad Book Blog through Books, Inq. The most recent post addresses words and phrases with sound similar to the ones the speaker/writer intends, like “cut the muster” which is meant to be either “cut the mustard” or “pass muster.”
  2. Phil Schroeder of Thinklings wonders if the phrase “criss-cross applesauce” is a p.c. attempt to relabel “indian style” sitting.

Both of these posts get me thinking about the natural changes in language. “Cut the muster” could become the “right” phrase for describing something that meets our standards. I suppose it would be ignorance ushering in the change, but isn’t that part of a living language? I believe “criss-cross applesauce” is a mislabeling of cross-legged sitting, but give it several years and it may become correct.

I enjoy reading about English peculiarities, and I want to write and speak correctly, but I know that living languages don’t toe the line of the stickler, as it were. They change usually for bad reasons. Now, we no longer say “art,” “wert,” “gloam,” “eftsoons,” or “peradventure.”

3 thoughts on “I Thought the Phrase Was ‘Cut the Cheese’”

  1. If I recall correctly, the construction “an umpire” was originally “a numpire.” People conflated the words and re-separated them, and the error became standard English.

    My name, Walker, used to refer to a job description. There was a man in a cloth dyeing operation who got into the dye vat and “walked” on the cloth to work the color in. That was all the word meant. If you wanted to talk about using your feet to travel from Point A to Point B, you used the word “go.” (“Gå” still has that very meaning in Norwegian). But in time “walk” came to mean traveling by foot, and “go” was shifted to a more general meaning, in which you could say, “I will go on horseback.”

  2. I’m with you, Ella. “Gentleman” used to be a useful word, but no more. Maybe we can remember to complain when “very unique” becomes standard along with “top priority.”

    Lars, that’s so-oh interesting. I didn’t know that about your name or the vord “go.” Like a kid said when he saw a flat tire on the tractor meant to take him on a hay ride: That’s awesome.

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