‘What Does It Mean’ Monday #10 “Keen as mustard”

Keen to know this one? 😉

The ‘Online Cambridge dictionary’ describes this phrase as meaning:

very eager and interested in everything.

Although the company Keen and Sons manufactured mustard from as way back as 1742, they did not come up with the phrase nor use it in the selling of their product.

In fact it was first recorded in text in 1672, almost a century earlier in a book by William Walker: “as keen as mustard,”

Then reappeared some years later in 1679 in F. Smith’s Clod-pate’s Ghost:

“You shall see a man as hot as Mustard against Plot and Plotters.”

But how does mustard mean we are enthusiastic and overly excitable?

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Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

You can thank the English for that. So revered their roast beef dish, that any side accompaniment that lifts the flavour and adds further taste to it should definitely be praised, right?

Mustard naturally adds zest and flavour, and therefore came to be associated with adding enthusiasm and vigour.

Ha!

Today the phrase is a simile, much like other “as ‘a’ as ‘b'” similes – the comparison of one thing with another.

Eg. as blind as a bat.

As brave as a lion.

As busy as a bee.

Do you like mustard? I’m more a mayo girl myself…

Is there a phrase or quote you want me to investigate?

Let me know, and I’ll give it a go!

 

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