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One of our senior technical architects uses this phrase:

it will come out in the wash

We generally take that to mean "let's do the detailed/mundane stuff later — and concentrate on the key stuff now".

Is this right? What's the actual meaning and correct usage of this phrase?

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+! This thread is my strongest revelation in my 30+ years English (or communication with mother-tonguers) –  Gennady Vanin Novosibirsk Feb 12 '11 at 4:45
    
@vgv8: "mother-tonguer"? Did you make that word up? :) –  JoseK Feb 12 '11 at 5:13
    
Nope. Then, a long time ago I convinced all my colleagues to abandon the term "correct" and substitute it by "more effecient". Do you advocate stagnation? –  Gennady Vanin Novosibirsk Feb 12 '11 at 5:34
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@vgv8: "correct" is quite different from "more efficient", arbitrarily changing the term is not making progress. Also, "mother-tonguer" is likely to be interpreted as an insult, because it sounds like mother fucker crossed with someone who french-kisses his mother. –  Wayne May 24 '11 at 18:22
    
@Wayne I liked very much your description of the term "mothertonguer":D –  Elijah Saounkine Jun 12 '11 at 8:27

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It means that problem or difficulties will be resolved in due course.

AFAIK, it was first used by Cervantes in Don Quixote:

"At least," said Sancho, "your grace was able to put your lance into its proper perspective, aiming at my head but landing on my shoulder, thanks to God and my ability at leaping aside - but never mind, it will all come out in the wash"

[The quote varies based on the translation]

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@I'd be curious to see the original Spanish. –  Robusto Dec 7 '10 at 11:38
    
I'm sure it would be easy enough to get the spanish text, but more difficult which bit the quote comes from! ;) –  CJM Dec 7 '10 at 17:01

It means that everything will come out. "Come out in the wash" refers to having a stain come out in the wash.

"Fig. to work out all right. (Alludes to a clothing stain that can be removed by washing.) Don't worry about that problem. It'll all come out in the wash. This trouble will go away. It'll come out in the wash." (the Free Dictionary)

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