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From the movie Tracks:

Man: Where you from?

Robyn: I grew up on a cattle station near Darling Downs.

Man: Oh, a Queenslander, eh? What'd you run?

Robyn: Hereford.

Man: Hard country, that. Reckon she copped her share of drought, eh?

Robyn: Seven years.

Man: Muster through it, did ya?

Robyn: We went broke.

I figure it means something like "plow through," but can't find it in dictionaries. What does it mean exactly? And is it specific to Australian English?

  • I am a native speaker of AmE and have never heard anyone say muster through and have found only one attestation so far where muster through means "to suffer through something, to press onward in spite of something, to summon one's fortitude and bear up under some duress or distress" – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 10 '18 at 18:52
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    But see here: books.google.com/… – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 10 '18 at 18:54
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo Very interesting! So it does seem to be region-specific and dialectal? – Eddie Kal Apr 10 '18 at 18:59
  • Based on 5 minutes of research, I would say, yes, it does seem to be a dialect usage. But you should muster through and try to find additional attestations from the southern hemisphere. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 10 '18 at 20:46
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Aha! I found a definitive reference to a meaning of muster that's specific to Australia and New Zealand, at Wikipedia:

A muster (Au/NZ) or a roundup (US) is the process of gathering livestock. Musters usually involve cattle, sheep or horses, but may also include goats, camels, buffalo or other animals. [...] Mustering is a long, difficult and sometimes dangerous job [...]

In your example, it looks like muster through is being used metaphorically by Australian farmers who would already be familiar with the literal meaning of mustering as making a long, difficult journey across the outback, trying to control livestock along the way. Metaphorically, it could refer to making a long "journey" through a very difficult situation.

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Yeah, it means to "persevere" or "make it through". I don't think it's specific to Australian English. It sounds very literary and dated (maybe American Civil War era?). But all the results on Google Books with that phrase are from the 21st century, so it's hard to say where or when it came from.

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    Please cite several. There are many hits for "muster through" but except for one, all that I found could have been been punctuated "muster, through..." – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 10 '18 at 21:57
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In North American English, this has a bit of a connotation of the frontier period - it's a bit how you'd expect someone to talk in a John Wayne movie. In that sense, it would mean to work through a problem with some difficulty. Or you could "muster up" something, to gather it together. In modern context it reads a little sarcastically as if they had persevered through something that wasn't really a problem at all.

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It sounds like someone had a brain cramp. The usual phrase is "muddle through," not "muster through." The sound is somewhat similar.

muddle through [TFD]
To push on to a favorable outcome in a disorganized way.

That seems to be what the scriptwriter meant to say (or perhaps the actor read the script wrong).

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