Meaning of Cookie Cutter

If you’ve watched American television, you may have heard them use the phrase cookie cutter. A literal cookie cutter is – as the name suggests – a machine that cuts cookies, but this phrase is more commonly used to mean something that’s mass produced. It’s generally used in a derogatory sense, to imply that something has no distinguishing features, or no originality.

Our featured image shows what some people might refer to as cookie-cutter homes. Every house looks the same, so there’s no way of differentiating between them – kind of like the way a batch of cookies cut by a machine are indistinguishable. As stated above, describing something this way usually has negative connotations. For example, if a politician wants to criticise other political parties, s/he might say they are trying to use a cookie-cutter approach to solving a problem, i.e. the solutions they’re proposing aren’t specific enough for a complex situation.

Cookies

Cookie cutter is a very American-sounding phrase, and in the UK, you’re more likely to hear one-size-fits-all to describe an idea that isn’t specifically tailored to a unique situation. This was a frequently used argument against the UK joining the European currency: “The EU is trying to enforce a one-size-fits-all interest rate.” Despite a slight overlap in definitions, cookie cutter is a lot more flexible than its British counterpart and can be used to describe any mass-produced, homogeneous item or idea.

One-size-fits-all
One-size-fits-all

The New Jersey website, nj.com, complains about “a world of cookie-cutter wine styles,” while American Banker warns its readers not to provide customers with a “cookie-cutter experience.” Again, note that in both of these examples the connotations are negative: wine drinkers want a unique experience with every new bottle they try, and a bank’s customers expect to be treated like individuals. In a world of cookie cutter products, consumers are desperate to try products that stand out from the crowd.

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