When military troops are assembled for a review, they are mustered. A soldier who passes inspection is said to “pass muster.” We use this phrase for all kinds of things and processes that must be approved, meet a certain standard. It is most often used in a negative sense, as in a flawed business plan than “doesn’t pass muster.”

The nonstandard form “pass the muster” may be influenced by the unrelated term “cut the mustard,” which has a similar meaning. Don’t believe those who insist that the latter phrase is a mistake for “cut the muster.” And the expression is definitely not “pass the mustard.”

See “cut the musterd” on the Non-Errors page.

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