I'm trying to describe being on top of things accounting-wise but can't quite find the words. Is there some kind of idiomatic antonym for "cooking the books"?

  • What sense of antonym do you want? books left without any modifications/overrides? bringing accounting practices back in line with standards? changing money handling behavior rather than changing the accounting? – Mitch May 27 '12 at 1:03
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    Maybe we can start a new name: "sushi books", meaning uncooked books... – GEdgar May 27 '12 at 1:46

In colloquial use "keeping clean books" is a phrase that is often used and would be widely understood.

(Technically, you could say "following generally accepted accounting principles" or "using GAAP" but that's only idiomatic in accounting and finance.)


Maybe honest bookkeeping could be the opposite of cooking the books.

  • This is getting closer to what I'm after. Perhaps there is no accounting equivalent after all but I'm looking for something more like "keeping your nose clean", but with your books instead of your nose. If that makes any sense. – user7626 May 27 '12 at 17:35


to keep impeccable books

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    Not sure. You could say "He kept two impeccable sets of books", which would imply that the books were indeed being cooked. – user16269 May 27 '12 at 0:41
  • @DavidWallace- I don't disagree, but without the 'two' I would interpret this as OP intended as would most others I think. The introduction of 'two' is key to the change in meaning. – Jim May 27 '12 at 1:19
  • Right you are, @Jim. I just +1ed you. – user16269 May 27 '12 at 1:21
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    Is there a more colloquial way of saying the same thing though? "Impeccable" just sounds so hoity-toity to my ear... – user7626 May 27 '12 at 3:08

Legitimate book keeping? It's clear, concise and rather straightforward. However, another possibility (although very informal) is to refer to the book keeping process as being on the up and up. I read on a popular blog, 'The Grammarist' that this idiom's exact origins are mysterious, dating back to the 19th century, likely American and it appears to come from sports betting. Although it has another meaning - on the rise - the blogger states that this usage is rare and examples are difficult to find.

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    Hi @emnkel, welcome to the EL&U. You can strengthen your answer by adding references and quotes from the site you mention. Otherwise, it may be voted down. – jimm101 Feb 7 '16 at 19:39

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