Out of a paper bag...

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Artrella, May 6, 2005.

  1. Artrella Banned

    Good afternoon, please could someone help me with this phrase? I cannot understand its meaning.

    Entrepreneurs are obsessed with freedom... and have an enormous work ethic," she says.
    But she concedes: "We couldn't organise ourselves out of a paper bag!"

    Thank you.
  2. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    This phrase is so silly, and I hope that someone else can explain it.

    I am bad with directions. I get lost everywhere I go! So, I sometimes say, "I couldn't find my way out of a paper bag". Finding your way out of a bag is easy: there's only one way out! But, for someone like me, it would be difficult.

    Another common expression with the same meaning:
    "He couldn't write to save his life." - He can't write well.

    I couldn't cook my way out of a paper bag.
    They couldn't drive their way out of a paper bag.
    He can't multiply his way out of a paper bag.

    Art: Is this clear?
  3. charmingman

    charmingman Member

    I suspect that the original phrase was along the lines of

    "He couldn't punch his way out of a paper bag."

    This suggestion is the person is so stupid, or weak that they can't do the simplest thing. It appears that the phrase has evolved into others that aren't quite so easy to guess the general meaning.

    Similar is the phrase "... couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery." :)

  4. la grive solitaire

    la grive solitaire Senior Member

    United States, English
    It's a take-off on the original expression, "He/she couldn't fight his/her way out of a paper bag". Since it should be easy to fight your way out of a bag made only of paper, it means being inept or unable to do something that you should otherwise be able to do, often something easy. It's used for all kinds of different situations like..."We're so disorganized that we couldn't organize ourselves out of a paper bag." :)
  5. Artrella Banned

    Thank you!! I couldn't find it in the dictionary because I was looking up "out of a paper bag"... :eek:
  6. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Hey Art GF;
    I agree with la grive solitaire...they are disorganized...can not even do the simplest of things...helpless...

    Just to add another into the mix....here we say..

    'He/she could not fight his/her way out of a wet paper bag'...

    te gato;)

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