I have my work cut out for me. 
Posted: 15 August 2007 07:52 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Have we discussed this before?  What is the origin?  Is it from textile manufacturing where a seamstress would have fabric cut to a pattern before beginning work?

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Posted: 15 August 2007 08:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Word Detective agrees with you, Jim:

While having someone else follow the pattern and cut out the proper bits of cloth from which to sew a jacket, for instance, would no doubt be helpful, the most arduous part of the job is actually sewing all the pieces together. . . . “To have your work cut out for you” is a remarkably old phrase, dating back to around 1600, and occurs in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” as well as the works of several other famous authors.

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Posted: 15 August 2007 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Previous discussions from 2002 and 2004.

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Posted: 15 August 2007 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I agree that this seems to be the most plausible origin of the phrase, but I don’t know of any direct evidence that supports the contention. The earliest citations in the OED seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with tailoring:

1619 Relat. betw. Eng. & Germ. Ser. II. (Camden) 68 How they may by..ill affected subjects cutt us out newe worke in Ireland and Scotland.

1795 BURKE Regic. Peace IV. ad fin. Wks. IX. 126 They will cut out work for one another, and France will cut out work for them all.

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Posted: 15 August 2007 10:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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This citation refers to cloth rather than work, but does show that “cutting out” was the term used, early enough, for cutting the necessary shapes to form a garment from a piece of cloth: “1551 T. WILSON Logike (1580) 42b, Although one have clothe, yet can he not have the use of it, except the Tailer cut it out.”

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