can't carry a tune in a bucket

arueng

Senior Member
CHINESE
I don't know why Mary's in the choir. She can't carry a tune in a bushel basket. Joe likes to sing in the shower, though he can't carry a tune in a bucket. I'd try to hum the song for you, but I can't carry a tune in a paper sack.


Hi,

I ran into the above on the internet, and I wonder why there are "in a bushel basket," "in a bucket," and "in a paper sack" following "carry a tune," and they still mean the same. How should I understand these bizzare editions? Thanks.
 
  • ><FISH'>

    Senior Member
    British English
    I have no idea what they're supposed to convey, but I don't think it matters. They're just ways of making the phrase sound more "quirky". The end meaning is the same: Can't carry a tune = is a terrible singer.
     

    Ceremoniar

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    The most common meaning of carry is to physically hold something while one moves along from one place to another. However, the expression carry a tune means that someone can sing at least reasonably well--maybe not very well, but enough to get through a song. So if someone says that Mary can't carry a tune, that means that her singing is bad, and that even something as weightless as a tune cannot be "carried" by Mary. If a bucket or pail is mentioned, it means that her singing is REALLY bad, because not even having a container would help her "carry" it.
     
    Last edited:

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    I don't know why Mary's in the choir. She can't carry a tune in a bushel basket. Joe likes to sing in the shower, though he can't carry a tune in a bucket. I'd try to hum the song for you, but I can't carry a tune in a paper sack.


    Hi,

    I ran into the above on the internet, and I wonder why there are "in a bushel basket," "in a bucket," and "in a paper sack" following "carry a tune," and they still mean the same. How should I understand these bizzare editions? Thanks.
    Carry has many figurative senses, and carry a tune is one of them. The various add-ons you cite are simply humorous variants, invented later, which treat the word carry as if being used in a literal sense, so that one could carry a tune in something. These variants would be avoided in formal speech.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top