Cut to the chase

To cut to the chase is to get to point or to skip to the important part of something without wasting time on boring or unimportant details. In writing, people often use the phrase as a way to get to the point quickly or to prepare readers for a bold statement. It occasionally appears as a hyphenated phrasal adjective—e.g., a cut-to-the-chase speaking style—meaning direct and to the point.

The prevailing theory about the expression’s origin is that it comes from film, where to cut to the chase is to dispense with exposition and get right to the chase scene—that is, the exciting or conclusive part of the movie. It is said to be from the silent film era and to have originated in Hollywood. This theory has been reprinted endlessly and is likely true, but we find no solid evidence to confirm it. The earliest surviving instances of the phrase in print are from well after the silent film era—and it didn’t become common until the 1980s—and there are enough obscure definitions of cut and chase to allow for many alternative theories.

Examples

Maybe the two of them will split a six-pack. “Hey, Ron,” Gorbachev will say. “Let’s cut to the chase. I’ll get out of Afghanistan; you stop funding the contras.” [Mohave Daily Miner (1986)]

So, the time has come in this column to, as they say in Hollywood, cut to the chase. Detroit, in seven. [Anchorage Daily News (1989)]

We exchanged the usual chitchat while we ate. When we ahd finished, it was time to cut to the chase. [Dear Mom (1991)]

The problem with that process is that others may not want to follow the same thinking route. They typically prefer that you cut to the chase. [Communicate with Confidence (1994)]

Let’s cut to the chase: United are deteriorating, and Arsenal, the defending champions, are getting better. [Telegraph (2002)]

OK, for those of you who are impatient and want to cut to the chase, here’s the scoop: No, it isn’t. [Slate (2012)]

Nicol has grown on me to the point I can’t do without his cut-to-the-chase analysis, sometimes delivered with a nice touch of cheek. [New Zealand Herald]

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