Results 1 to 4 of 4
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Korean
      • Home Country:
      • South Korea
      • Current Location:
      • South Korea

    • Join Date: Jun 2007
    • Posts: 1,262
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #1

    sell his way out of a paper bag

    Could you explain the following expression in bold?

    He worked long hours, but he couldn't sell his way out of a paper bag. He was continually frustrated.

    In the context, it just seems to mean "he couldn't sell anything." If so, I can't understand why it is expressed that way.

    Thank you.

  1. Ouisch's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Mar 2006
    • Posts: 4,142
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #2

    Re: sell his way out of a paper bag

    "Out of a paper bag" or "out of a wet paper bag" is a common expression to indicate someone's extreme inability to perform a particular task.

    The phrase originated in the world of boxing. "He couldn't punch his way out of a paper bag" was a derisive way to indicate the weakness of an opponent. A paper bag is very flimsy, and if a person happened to be trapped inside a huge, life-sized paper bag, he should be able to easily tear himself free. Anyway, over time, the "paper bag" analogy spread and was applied to activities outside the boxing ring.

    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Student or Learner
      • Native Language:
      • Korean
      • Home Country:
      • South Korea
      • Current Location:
      • South Korea

    • Join Date: Jun 2007
    • Posts: 1,262
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #3

    Re: sell his way out of a paper bag

    I see. It's been helpful.

    Thank you.

  2. BobK's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Jul 2006
    • Posts: 15,873
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #4

    Re: sell his way out of a paper bag

    '<verb> his/her way out of a wet paper bag' is similar in weight (that is, feebleness) to '<verb> the skin off a rice pudding'. This is a particularly British idiom I think; my father used to complain about a car with a not particularly powerful engine, saying that it couldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding. I was most impressed at the time, and thought it was an original expression; but it's not (perhaps it's more northern than southern - which is why I hadn't heard it before, with my sheltered southern upbringing). Fred Trueman (Yorkshire and England fast bowler) - Fred Trueman - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - was reported as using it to a batsman who threatened to 'knock him out of the park': 'Tha couldn't knock t'skin off a rice pudding'.

    b

Similar Threads

  1. sheet of/piece paper
    By Mad-ox in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 23-Sep-2007, 18:01
  2. name for a set of paper
    By jessica ng in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 22-Nov-2006, 13:57
  3. I need help finishing my paper
    By tanthony3 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 28-Jul-2006, 21:53
  4. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 13-Apr-2004, 21:43

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •