In So Many Words

Info-Comics by Larry Paros

Macho Men

Men will go to any lengths to spice up an otherwise non-descript sex life — which they deem critical in attracting a mate.

"Hot dog!" they exclaim — an ejaculation of approval, delight, and gratification on achieving their goal. The expression first surfaced around 1906, only much later becoming a personal noun, describing one who performs with panache who is also very much taken with himself. The "hot dog" loves playing to his audience, hoping that he will someday become someone they will relish.

It's that same relish, from the Old French relais, "remainder" which became the aftertaste that turns an ordinary meal into a delicacy. Take men's preoccupation with ED. Please take it. In such matters, it's their pharmacist whose services they relish.

What men apparently relish most is being the mustard, "the genuine article or the main attraction," (19th C.), while traditionally linking the ability to cut the mustard to their sexual prowess. Over time, they extended its meaning to "meeting or exceeding performance requirements," whatever the challenge — adding the refrain "If you can't cut the mustard, you can at least lick the jar."

Mustard is a fine flavor enhancer. Like all such spices, it's best to cut it first, adding it to the food in very small amounts. Maybe what men are hoping for is to "exhibit high standards," as when they "cut a fine figure." When all is said and done, however, how much does it really take to cut the mustard? Could men instead just be trying to pass muster, like a soldier during inspection?

Either way, guys, you're not up for inspection, and mustard is merely the finishing touch, not the main meal, no matter how you cut it.