Jargon Genesis: Across the Board

“Management is making cuts ‘across the board’ to balance the budget next year.”

Isn’t that an unpleasant phrase to hear at a company meeting? We all know that “across the board” means inclusive of all categories or classes, with no exception. But where did it come from? You gamblers might know!

When gambling at a horse race, you can make many kinds of bets. You might make a win bet, betting the horse will take first place. You might make a place bet, hoping the horse will come in second or first. Or you might make a wager to show, hoping the horse comes in third, second, or first.

Alternatively, you might bet “across the board,” counting on your horse to do any of the three: win, place, or show. This used to be tracked by bookmakers on a chalkboard, and they would mark the wager “across the board.”

Unfortunately, when management says they’ll make cuts “across the board,” that’s a completely different kind of gamble, one that is not sought out by the employees.