Today’s New York Times reported a flamboyant dinner party hosted by President Obama to welcome President of China, Hu Jintao. According to the article, many outstanding figures of politics, business, sports, entertainment, and other fields were ‘on the list’ for the state dinner. Some ‘made the cut’. Some ‘made the list’. In this context, are ‘make the cut’ and ‘make the list’ exactly the same in meaning? Why don’t you simply say ‘[stay/survive] on the list‘?

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter made the cut. So did Bill Clinton and his wife, the secretary of state. The heads of Microsoft, Boeing, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Walt Disney were on the list. So were the singer Barbra Streisand, the ice skater Michelle Kwan, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the architect Maya Lin and the fashion designer Vera Wang.
But Fred P. Hochberg, the chairman of the Export-Import Bank, did not make the list for President Obama’s state dinner for President Hu Jintao of China, even though trade was a major theme of the day.

3 Answers 3


"Make the list" and "make the cut" are interchangeable. "Stay on the list" probably derives from "makes the list" but it's not something I hear falling into the groove of a familiar expression. Sounds like someone avoided a cliché here.

Bonus extra: And for phrases of opposite meaning, a person who is "on the bubble" is in danger of getting cut.

Edit: "Stay on the list" implies that you've "made the cut/made the list" but are "on the bubble." :=)

  • Robusto. Thanks for providng me with always valuable input. 'On the bubble' - be in danger of gtting cut, it's a new asset to my English vocabulary. - Yoichi Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 1:46
  • どういたしまして。。。。。。。
    – Robusto
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 2:48
  • Note: I had to add all the extra dots because answers must be 15 characters long ...
    – Robusto
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 2:49
  • ち​ゃ​う​ね​ん​。​;-)
    – deceze
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 9:36
  • @deceze: 何だかよく分からない。
    – Robusto
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 13:22

The idea here is there were bars to be scaled in order to get invited to the presidential dinner party. Hence, it was difficult to make the list. Indeed, there is an actual list of guests probably managed by White House staff.

We also talk about making the cut, because guest lists usually begin with many names but the number has to go down to something manageable, hence the cut.

Stay on the list and survive on the list could make sense in this contest, but they are really not idiomatic, i.e. naturally used. In addition, they do not evoke the brutal nature of the intrigues behind these powerful dinner lists.


Make a list means being part of, more like what makes a list is things, in this case people.

As for make the cut it is literally the same, only more like piece of something to make the whole thing, in this case an invitation obviously will be limited.


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