Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

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with 8 comments

A cooked hot dog garnished with mustard.
Image via Wikipedia

Recently heard in a somewhat tense business meeting:

That won’t pass mustard.

This is, of course, a conflation of two common sayings:

‘Cut the mustard’ (To reach the required standard — see Oxford Dictionaries)

‘Pass muster’ (To be accepted as satisfactory — see Oxford Dictionaries.More neologisms (new words and phrases).

Find out about idioms


8 Responses

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  1. I’d say that’s a mondegreen: a misheard saying, lyric, or slogan. Sometimes confused with a malapropism: a word misused for humorous effect (e.g., voracity instead of veracity).

    Michael Farrell

    25/02/2010 at 2:47 pm

    • I’ve never heard of ‘mondegreen’ before and it’s not in my Oxford Dictionary of English. Not to be defeated I googled it, and found an explanation on Wikipedia.

      The word is apparently based on a line in a poem: ‘And laid him on the green’ which was mistakenly heard as:‘And Lady Mondegreen’ by the person who coined the word ‘mondegreen’, the writer Sylvia Wright.

      The article says: Wright explained the need for a new term: “The point about what I shall hereafter call mondegreens, since no one else has thought up a word for them, is that they are better than the original”.

      I think that ‘pass mustard’ is better than the original, and will be using it henceforth. Thanks, Michael. How interesting!


      25/02/2010 at 3:47 pm

  2. I once heard a judge admonish an over-acting witness: “Could we have a little less mustard on the hot dog, please?”

    Michael Farrell

    25/02/2010 at 4:10 pm

    • That’s very American and very funny.


      25/02/2010 at 4:16 pm

  3. I enjoyed this entry, Deborah, as I have reading others on this site.

    Two that I’m tired of arguing with others about are:

    “Taken for granite” instead of for granted, and
    “That’s a mute point” in place of moot.

    (I wrote a post on mis-heard phrases and lyrics entitled “Gladly, the Cross-eyed Bear”.)

    Invisible Mikey

    07/03/2010 at 11:59 pm

    • Hello, Invisible Mikey — how nice to see you here. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think I’ll do a post on that confusion between ‘mute point’ and ‘moot point’ (with an acknowledgement to you, if that’s OK) — it’s an interesting one. In the meantime, you’re welcome to leave a link to the post you mention. I’d like to read it!


      08/03/2010 at 7:16 am

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