Monday, October 02, 2006

Pass the buck

Meaning: Pass off responsibility to someone else.
Example: In times of trouble, my old boss was quick to pass the buck. But when things went well, her mantra became "the buck stops here".
Origin: Some card games use a marker called a buck. Players take turns acting as dealer with the buck marking the current dealer. When the buck is passed to the next player, the responsibility for dealing is passed.

Spawned the phrase "The buck stops here" popularized by President Harry Truman.

A buck-slip is also a small piece of paper that is sometimes preprinted, or hand-written, and included the names of the people who were to receive a memo or report. It is a routing list.

In the days before copy machines and computers people typed one memo, with a carbon copy, then passed the one copy of the memo around to the people listed on the buck slip. Each person initialed next to their name on the buck slip and passed the memo on to the next person on the buck slip.

A tactic used to delay or delegate something was to pass the document on to the next person, without initialing the buck slip -- pass the buck (slip). When Harry said the buck stopped here he meant he wasn't going to pass the responsibility along.

Although the buck slip was a popular use of the term, that usage may have originated with the gambling usage.

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