Entry in progress—B.P.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
mustard, n. and adj.
slang (orig. U.S.). Something which adds piquancy or zest; that which sets the standard or is the best of anything. to cut the mustard and variants: to come up to expectations, to meet requirements, to succeed. to be (to) the mustard: to be exactly what is required; to be very good or special.
1894 Janesville (Wisconsin) Daily Gaz. 13 Feb. 8/1 (advt.) Rosenfeld cuts the mustard. $9.75!
1903 A. ADAMS Log of Cowboy xv. 237 For fear they were not the proper mustard, he had that dog man sue him in court for the balance, so as to make him prove the pedigree.
1905 ‘H. MCHUGH’ You can search Me 17 Petroskinski is a discovery of mine, and he’s all to the mustard.
1907 ‘O. HENRY’ Heart of West x. 163, I looked around and found a proposition that exactly cut the mustard.
1922 C. SANDBURG Slabs of Sunburnt West 7 Kid each other… Tell each other you’re all to the mustard.
1930 P. G. WODEHOUSE Very Good, Jeeves! iii. 70 Life at this juncture seemed pretty well all to the mustard.
1960 J. MITFORD Hons & Rebels ix. 56 Perhaps I could get a job as a maid in somebody’s house..but Idden convinced me I would never cut the mustard at this occupation.
9 June 1891, Omaha (NE) World Herald, “Miscellaneous Sporting News,” pg. 5:
it cometh to pass on the third day that Joseph Walsh, Dadlets Clark and Edwin Eiteljorg of the Omaha base ball club failed to “cut the mustard” with the Louisville American aggregation and now most emphatically state that they were “just talking,” and never intended jumping the Western.
23 June 1891, Omaha (NE) World Herald, pg. 5:
Minneapolis worked hard to win the game but the Millers could not cut the mustard notwithstanding herculean efforts.
27 June 1891, Omaha (NE) World Herald, pg. 4:
But he failed, in modern language, to cut the mustard.
2 July 1891, Omaha (NE) World Herald, pg. 5:
He was not to blame, however, for it did look that way, but then Omaha has the happy facility of cutting the mustard at the right time, and there are such things as errors in base ball.
12 July 1891, Omaha (NE) World Herald, part 2, pg. 16:
These bull frogs should be compelled to stay out when they jump and then fail to cut the mustard.