bucket with a lid on it

dexterciyo

Senior Member
Español - Canarias
Hello everyone,

"I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket with a lid on it"

I know it means that person cannot sing at all, but I just can't picture it: a bucket with a lid on it? Is it that if you're inside a bucket, things get easier to sing well?

Thanks in advance.
 
  • mangoman

    Senior Member
    British English
    "I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket" is common is British English, but I've never heard the bit about the lid. Maybe American?

    Maybe the idea is that the tune is trying to escape from the bucket?

    Buckets with lids are used in hospitals for surgical waste. The lid normally is hinged across the diameter. And some coal buckets for indoor use have lids.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I've never heard the lid part either, but it seems to me that he can't carry the tune even with a lid so that it can't escape. There's no way it can get out but he still can't carry it -- and get it safely to where he's going with the tune still inside.
     

    dexterciyo

    Senior Member
    Español - Canarias
    I believe that's the idea of the "lid" part. Good one.

    I wonder what the bucket has got to do with all this.
     

    dexterciyo

    Senior Member
    Español - Canarias
    It's just a container to carry the tune. It plays off the phrase "to carry a tune" which is to sing melodiously... or at least much better than I can.

    I see the Free Dictionary defines carry a tune: to be able to sing accurately.
    Oh, slowpoke here... I get it now.

    Many thanks!
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I believe that "with a lid on it" is mere embellishment, with no particular rationale other than to make the phrase novel; also, humorous phrases are sometimes made more amusing when extended or made absurdly complicated.
     

    pera_palas

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    I am not a native but could the lid part mean that, s/he sings so badly and squeaky that the lid goes up everytime some tune gets of his/her mouth?
     

    Sparky Malarky

    Moderator
    English - US
    I am not a native but could the lid part mean that, s/he sings so badly and squeaky that the lid goes up everytime some tune gets of his/her mouth?
    No. As Copyright says, to carry a tune means to sing adequately well. You might say "He's not a great singer, but he can carry a tune." This means that, although his singing is nothing out of the ordinary, he can hit the correct notes when he sings. Some of us cannot do this, although we try! "Carry a tune" is a fixed expression.

    "He can't carry a tune in a bucket" makes no sense, literally. It is a joke. It is an old joke, and is commonly used. Adding "...with a lid on it" is an embellishment, as Matching Mole says. It extends the joke further. But it makes no more sense than the original joke did.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    When you carry water in a bucket, you generally lose some over the sides if you don't know how to move correctly to prevent it.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top