Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cut the mustard v.

[the image of the condiment’s piquancy]

1. (orig. US, also cut the asparagus) to come up to a given standard, to prove satisfactory.

Decatur (IL) Herald Dispatch 18 May 6?/2: His friends not only insist that he shall be a candidate but insist as well that he shall be the next county judge and McDonald bows to their wishes and will do their will, if he can cut the mustard.
[US]‘O. Henry’ Roads of Destiny 99: ‘She cut the mustard,’ he said, ‘all right.’.
[US]Alaska Citizen 28 July 8/4: You betcher sweet life I’ve cut the mustard.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 230: These crude Methods cut no Asparagus with the Landed Gentry.
[US]R.J. Fry Salvation of Jemmy Sl. III i: I can’t never cut the mustard with a home like I’ve got!
[US]J. Conroy Disinherited 247: They got bellies wrinkled up like washboards, so’s they can’t cut the mustard on a sand hoggin’ job.
[UK]Post (Lanarks) 23 Apr. 6/3: Can’t cut the mustard — unable to take punishment.
[US]T. Runyon In For Life 186: They were slinking back, unable to cut the mustard outside.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 14 Oct. in Proud Highway (1997) 403: Journalism needs people who can cut the ever-toughening mustard.
[US]E. Thompson Caldo Largo (1980) 85: If I don’t cut the mustard, you don’t have to pay me.
[US]S. King It (1987) 636: To show they could cut the mustard, I guess.
[UK]J. Poller Reach 148: Mum, it takes a lot more than dressing respectably [...] to cut the mustard as a mother!
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper 4 30: Celebrities who can’t cut the mustard any more.
[UK]Guardian 21 Dec. [Internet] A centuries-old Kent pub [...] is cutting the mustard again, thanks to a shabby-chic makeover.

2. (W.I.) of a man, to satisfy a woman sexually.

[WI]Allsopp Dict. Carib. Eng. Usage.

3. (US) to show off.

[UK]W. Eyster Far from the Customary Skies 127: Swing them along, boys, show them how to dance, give it the juice, make like you’re cutting the mustard.

4. (US) to impress, to influence.

[UK]Observer Rev. 2 Apr. 2: None of the small-time players on the TCI cuts the mustard with the likes of Gordon Brown, Tony Blair or William Hague.