up to scratch





What is the meaning and origin of not be up to scratch?

By Mr. Malan, Malaysia - 22nd Jan. 2007.

When you say that something is not up to scratch, it means that it is not up to the mark. It is not of an acceptable standard or quality.

Here are a few examples.

• I find that Alum’s designs aren't up to scratch.

• It's no surprise that her last essay wasn't up to scratch.

• The tests showed that the new recruits were not up to scratch.

This is an idiom that comes from the world of boxing. In the old days when boxing was still a primitive sport, a line was drawn in the centre of the ring. The line was called a scratch. Nowadays whenever a boxer is knocked down during the bout, all he/she has to do is to stand up before the referee counts to ten. During the early days of boxing, the contestant who had been knocked down had to demonstrate that he was in control of his faculties by walking to the line (scratch) within 38 seconds. Why it was 38 seconds, I have no idea. If the boxer was unable to come up to the scratch within the allotted time, then he was considered unfit to continue the fight. The fight was awarded to his opponent.

We have already once answered this same question.

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