My mom can’t play football for beans.

diamondcutter

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My mother tried to wrap her arms around me, but I know how to get away from tacklers. When Mom went to grab me, I threw her a head fake, spun away, and gave her a few of my best fancy footwork moves that I learned playing peewee football. She didn’t have a chance! I sidestepped her and ran on the bus before she could hug or kiss me.
Ha-ha-ha! My mom can’t play football for beans. Nah-nah-nah boo-boo on her!

Source: Mrs. Kormel Is Not Normal, Dan Gutman

“My mom can’t play football for beans.” means “My mom can’t play football at all.” Am I right?
 

diamondcutter

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Is "can’t play for beans" a set phrase?
 

Tarheel

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Is "can’t play for beans" a set phrase?
It might be. I seem to remember hearing that said by my parents (a long time ago).

Added: Not necessarily with "play" in there.
 

emsr2d2

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In BrE, it's "can't [verb] for toffee".

I don't know why everyone loves Adele so much. She can't sing for toffee!
My dad can't play backgammon for toffee. I beat him every time we play.
I hate going to my mother-in-law's house for dinner. She can't cook for toffee!
 

Skrej

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'Can't (verb) for X' is a set phrase, but it has a lot of regional variations for X. Another common (vulgar) variant is "can't (verb) for sh*t", but I think there are a lot of variants. I've heard 'for nuts' and 'for sour apples' as well, although I don't use any of them.

At least in the US, you'll hear another slight variation as "worth X" instead of 'for X'.

I think you could substitute just about any worthless, cheap, or low-quality item, though. Not sure why the BrE version has 'toffee', though. That seems more like a luxury item than something cheap or inferior. :unsure:

The general idea is that you can't do something well enough even to earn something relatively worthless. I mean, even toffee is essentially burnt sugar, so maybe that's the rationale for the BrE version, even though we actually enjoy the taste?
 

emsr2d2

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I've never taken it to mean doing something to earn something relatively worthless. Quite the opposite, in fact. For me, it means they can't do something even if they're offered something really good as a reward!
 

tedmc

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I think the other more common idiom/slang which means the same thing is "can't do something for nuts".
 
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probus

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I've never heard "for nuts" in AmE either.

Beans generally represent something of little value, as exemplified by the expression "a hill of beans".
 
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