be up to scratch

What is the meaning and origin of the expression "be up to scratch"?

By Mal, Singapore (09.12.2006).

When you say that something is "up to scratch" or "comes up to scratch" what you are implying is that it meets the standards required. In other words, it meets with the minimum requirements.

Here are a few examples.

* I have to get this project up to scratch before I can ask for a raise.

*Sorry Mal, your performance isn't up to scratch

• Naresh's paper wasn't up to scratch, so I failed him.

As kids whenever we raced our friends, the first thing we did was to draw a line on the ground to indicate that it was the starting point. Such lines are used in various sporting events. It is this line that is referred to as "scratch" in the expression "up to scratch". According to some scholars such a line was drawn in boxing rings as well. In the old days, a "scratch" was drawn in the middle of the ring.

Whenever a boxer was knocked down by an opponent, he had to get up and walk to the "scratch" in the middle of the ring. He had to do this within a specified time in order to show that he was still in control of his faculties. By coming up to the mark, the boxer was showing the referee and his opponent that he was ready to continue the fight. Other expressions which have more or less the same meaning are "up to snuff" and "up to par".

Here are a few examples.

*John, your performance hasn't been up to snuff.

*The boss said that the report wasn't up to par.

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