Good enough for government work and close enough for government work

Good enough for government work and close enough for government work are two versions of an idiom with an interesting evolution. We will examine the meaning of the idiom good enough for government work or close enough for government work, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Good enough for government work and close enough for government work are both American idioms to describe something that is merely adequate, something that meets the bare minimum standards, something that is subpar. The expressions good enough for government work and close enough for government work have a surprising origin. Around the turn of the century, the terms were used to mean something of high quality or something that was the best of the best. This definition of good enough for government work and close enough for government work may have persisted through World War II, though some believe this is the time when the meaning of the expressions began to change. By the 1960s and 1970s, good enough for government work and close enough for government work came to mean the exact opposite of their original definitions.

Examples

On Thursday’s first re-inspection, the fly guy count was down to 10, which was still not good enough for government work or inspection. (The Miami Herald)

“The onus is now on Iraqi political elites to put personal agendas on hold and expedite the formation of a good-enough-for-government-work cabinet, since doing so may be the one thing that can prevent Iraq from becoming a war zone again,” Fontenrose said. (The Washington Post)

But as the old cliche goes, it was close enough for government work — particularly with a leftist Legislature. (The Los Angeles Times)

Although the TASER didn’t work much like Swift’s physics-defying weapon, it was close enough for government work (or at least for a former government contractor’s personal project). (Forbes Magazine)

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