Nugget of Knowledge: ‘Up to snuff’


Len Rome's Daily Feature of Little Known Facts

(WYTV) – Tuesday, we talked to George Roman from the Canfield Fair Board, and he told Daybreak that the state inspector had checked out all the rides at the fair and that they were all “up to snuff.”

So, what’s the origin of the expression, “up to snuff?”

The snuff here is powdered tobacco you inhale sharply. We’re not talking about snuffing anything out, extinguishing something.

Several phrases used the word snuff, and they came from the early part of the 19th century in Britain when snuffing tobacco powder was common.

The first meaning of “up to snuff” was somebody who was sharp, not easily fooled because it was usually adult men who snuffed, and it was expensive.

The meaning then changed to mean someone who was efficient and capable, and then something that was up to standard — up the quality you needed.

It’s very similar to another expression of the time, “up to scratch.”

This comes from prize-fighting: the scratch was the line across the floor that a contestant had to touch with his toe to show he was ready to fight.

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