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The British require more than mere acceptability for “up to snuff,” however; for them it means ‘alert, sharp, shrewd, not easily duped.’ Etymologically related to the German verb for to smell, the phrase up to snuff describes one who is quick to “smell out” a situation or to “be on the right scent;” one who is percipient and to the mark Passing the test, meeting the requirements.There is little evidence to support the theory that the mark here is specifically that fixed by the Assay Office as the standard for gold and silver.

The allusion is to a boxing match in which a bell is sounded to signal the beginning of each round.Thus the expression is similar in origin and current meaning to toe the mark.Today it is used primarily for performance evaluation, but may be varied in context to specify any type of judgmental standard.Thus, in its original context, pass muster indicated that a soldier had successfully undergone an inspection.

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The expression soon expanded into more figurative applications, and continues in widespread use.This expression, dating from the 14th century, originally meant to attain the rank of knight, since a newly dubbed knight was presented with a pair of gilt spurs as a symbol of his chivalry.

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