What Does The Buck Stops Here Mean?

The Buck Stops Here Meaning

Definition: I will not pass on this responsibility to someone else.

This expression is used to emphasize that the final responsibility of making a decision or taking an action lies with the person using this idiom.

Origin of The Buck Stops Here

United States President Harry S. Truman popularized this expression in 1945. He felt that the president could not pass on the responsibility of important decisions to other people.

The idiom developed from the expression passing the buck. To pass the buck means to pass the responsibility or decision on to another person.

There are two prevailing theories for the origin of the expression passing the buck. One is from poker. If a person did not wish to deal the cards, he could pass the marker (a buckhorn knife) on to someone else.

The other possibility comes from the French word buoc emissaire, which means scapegoat. A scapegoat is a person (or an actual goat) that people blame for all of their mistakes.

Examples of The Buck Stops Here

who said the buck stops hereHere is an example of two coworkers talking about the communal fridge in the company break room.

Regina: Oh, this is terrible! Can you smell that horrid stench?

Ginny: Yes, it’s been getting worse and worse. I can’t believe some of our coworkers would leave their food in the fridge to rot.

Regina: Who is in charge of cleaning out the fridge?

Ginny: That’s the problem. Everyone keeps passing the buck. The cleaning crew says it is the responsibility of the individual employees. The employees insist the mess isn’t theirs. No department will claim responsibility either.

Regina: Well, the buck stops here. I’m going to make sure this fridge gets cleaned even if I have to do it myself!

Ginny: Wow! Good luck!

define the buck stops hereIn this example, two friends are discussing a third friend who has been struggling with a gambling addiction.

Kevin: Did you hear that Ron went bankrupt?

Steve: Yeah. He’s had a gambling problem for a really long time.

Kevin: Someone in his family should talk to him about it.

Steve: I guess his family doesn’t want to make things tense. They won’t do anything about it.

Kevin: Let’s do something, then. The buck stops here. If his family won’t help, we should do whatever we can.

More Examples

In the below example, an official says the full responsibility and blame are his.

Gallagher wondered whether some blame should be pointed at Hancock’s office or at City Council.

  • “I’m going to say the entire buck stops with me,” Day said. “Anything the council approved, I submitted. Electeds can only make decisions based on information they are given, and I’m the one that informs them.” –Denver Post

In this second example, the mayor of New York says he bears the ultimate responsibility for children’s safety.

  • “The central question is did something go profoundly wrong here? Yes,” the mayor said at a City Hall press conference. “I want to be very clear the buck stops here.” –New York Post

Summary

The phrase the buck stops here means that the person making the statement will take responsibility for a decision. It emphasizes that no excuses should be made nor blame put on someone else.

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