Can't **** for toffee

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Can't **** for toffee

Post by Dr Stevil » Thu Aug 04, 2005 5:40 pm

Hello all, first time poster here.

Does anyone here have any info on the origin of the phrase "...can't [insert verb of choice] for toffee" ?

I've searched the archives and tried every search engine I can find and I'm still drawing a blank

TIA
Dr Stevil

PS this question was posed to me by a rather attractive ladyfriend, so there's a lot at stake here ;)
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Can't **** for toffee

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Aug 05, 2005 5:52 am

Stevil, I don't have any definite answer on the origin of this phrase, but it does closely resemble an old U.S. expression CAN’T **** FOR BEANS (e.g. “can’t sing for beans,” can’t do math for beans,” etc.). The U.S. expression derives from the fact that beans denoted something small and worthless, which also gave us the phrases “not know beans” (early 19th century), “doesn’t amount to a hill of beans” and “not worth a hill of beans” (19th century, see hill of beans)

My guess is that in England, for whatever reason, ‘toffee,’ was also at one time held in low regard or, at least, as a good butt for derision, as is indicated by its slang meaning of ‘nonsense’ (1960s and still in use).

The Oxford English Dictionary lists the following:

TOFFEE noun: nonsense, rubbish
<circa 1930 “The eternal flame of the high ideal is all my-eye. It's all TOFFEE, my dear sirs.”—‘Phoenix: Posthumous Papers’ (1936), edited by. E. D. McDonald) by D. H. Lawrence, page 588>

<1957 “Working-class to the backbone, just like us . . . And if he's been filling you up with a lot of TOFFEE to the contrary, more fool you.”—‘Main Chance’ by P. Wildeblood, page 220>

<1970 “‘It was all a lot of TOFFEE,’ I said, ‘as Hardacre very well knows.”—‘Man Without Friends’ by M. Tripp, vii. page 77>
NOT TO BE ABLE (to do a thing) FOR TOFFEE: to be incompetent at it. colloquial
<1914 “Their opponents CANNOT ‘SHOOT for nuts’ (or ‘FOR TOFFEE,’ as one Tommy more expressly put it).”—‘The Illustrated London News,’ 12 September, page 380/1>

<1932 “The Morgan wouldn't start, NOT FOR TOFFEE.”—‘Have His Carcase’ by D. L. Sayers, xii. page 145>

<1951 “Those dreary girls you get in every Drama School who CAN’T ACT FOR TOFFEE.”—‘Lucy Carmichael’ by M. Kennedy, II. page 76>

<1977 “You CAN’T KISS FOR TOFFEE. You open your mouth too wide.”—‘Thorn Birds’ by C. McCullough, xiii. page 325>
Ken G – August 4, 2005
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Can't **** for toffee

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Aug 05, 2005 10:31 am

A minor boast, "I did a good job mowing that lawn", will extract "You give yourself toffee don't you?" from my moiety, who hails from Yorkshire.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Can't **** for toffee

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Aug 05, 2005 4:44 pm

Hers is a good example of a rather toffee-nosed remark, it seems to me.
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Can't **** for toffee

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Mon Aug 15, 2005 6:33 pm

Humbug.
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Can't **** for toffee

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Aug 16, 2005 6:44 am

Bah!
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