Why it’s “O.K.” to use “Up To Snuff” and why we do

“Well, there’s no doubt he’s not up to snuff.”

I had been standing in line at Best Buy when I heard the woman make the “up to snuff” comment about a salesman. One of many phrases we use every day of which we have no idea of why we do.

So I thought I’d share a couple of them and why we use them. Please add your own in the comment section. If you know a phrase, but not the origins, I’ll endeavor to find out for you.

Starting with “up to snuff”. According to Phrases.org.uk the phrase originated in the early 19th century. It appeared in print for the first time in the Shakespeare parody Hamlet Travestie, by John Poole in 1811. A 1823 Grose’s Dictionary as “up to snuff and a pinch above it”, a derivation to be from ‘snuff’, powdered tobacco that had become fashionable to inhale in the late 17th century, thought to bring a sharpness of mind.

Another term we use daily, if not hourly, is O.K. The Straight Dope.com offers up a detailed story on its origins. It received national attention during the presidential campaign of Martin Van Buren in 1840 while running for reelection. His campaign crated the OK Club, a take on his nickname of Old Kinderhook. The word had been in use for several years as an abbreviation for Oll korrect. Seems in the late 1830s and early 1840s, the use of abbreviations was in vogue and O.K. was one used quite a bit. It became universally used following the Van Buren election effort. He lost.

So what is your favorite phrase to use of which you have no clue on the origins?

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