Where did the phrase “up to scratch” come from
The phrase “up to scratch” can be traced back to the world of boxing and cricket. Before boxing became what is it today, a line was drawn within the centre in the ring and was referred to as a scratch.
During the early days of boxing, the boxer who had been knocked down had to demonstrate that he was in control of his faculties by walking to the line (scratch) within 30seconds. When one of the boxers was unable to come up to the scratch inside the allotted time, then he was viewed as unfit to continue the fight. The fight was awarded to his opponent because the other boxer was not “up to scratch” or could not get up to the line.
The phrase “starting from scratch” is also from this same “line”, since that is where the boxers would have started. It is unclear if boxing was the first source of this phrase, or just the most popular because ‘Scratch’ has been used since the 18th century as a sporting term for a boundary or starting point which was scratched on the ground. One of the first written instances refers to the “scratch” in cricket, which is the “crease” near the batsman.
In modern day boxing the boxer has until the count of 10 to show they can continue to fight. The Marquess of Queensberry rules have been the general rules governing modern boxing since their publication in 1867. In modern day boxing a standard match consists of a pre-determined number of three-minute rounds, a total of up to 12 rounds (formerly 15).. The fight is controlled by a referee who works within the ring to judge and control the conduct of the fighters, rule on their ability to fight safely, count knocked-down fighters, and rule on fouls. There is typically a minute spent between each round with the fighters who go back to their “corners”.
Here are a couple of examples how the phrase “up to scratch” is often used
• The new striker wasn’t up to scratch.
• The tests showed that the students weren’t up to scratch.