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pass the buck Informal

Meaning: If you pass the buck, you shift the responsibility for something to someone else in order to take the pressure off yourself.

For example:

  • Don't try to pass the buck by blaming your staff. It's your job to hire good people in the first place, and it's your responsibility to make sure they're doing a good job once you've hired them.

  • The president is passing the buck by saying the problems were caused by the previous government.

Origin: This idiom is probably related to card playing in North America in the nineteenth century. To prevent cheating, the job of dealing the cards was passed from player to player. In order to remember whose turn it was to deal next, the current dealer would pass a marker, called "the buck", to the player who was next in line. The buck was usually a knife, and knives often had handles made of buck's horn, so the marker became known as a "buck". When the dealer's turn was over, he "passed the buck".

Quick Quiz:

Monica tried to pass the buck by saying it was because of someone else that
  1. her company had such a great year
  2. her company had so many problems
  3. her company got so many contracts

Discuss: pass the buck

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