cut and dried
1710, from herbs being cut and dried for sale, rather than fresh.
- simple, straightforward, clear, or certain
- Take care when guessing, since problems do not always have cut-and-dried answers.
- decided, set, settled, not open to change
- (obsolete) lacking freshness or spontaneity
In formal usage, the form cut and dried is more common than cut and dry, and the meaning is rather “settled” than “clear”, and mildly pejorative, following original usage and etymology. Sense of “clear, straightforward” may be influenced by clear cut, which may be preferred.
- cut and dry / cut and dried, Paul Brians, Common Errors in English Usage (2nd Edition, November, 2008)
- Re: cut and dried, ESC, January 06, 2001, The Phrase Finder
- “Cut and dried” in Michael Quinion, Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds: Ingenious Tales of Words and Their Origins, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books in association with Penguin Books, 2004, ISBN 978-1-58834-219-5.