way out of a paper bag

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Possibly from "he couldn't punch his way out of a paper bag."

Noun[edit]

way out of a paper bag

  1. (idiomatic, formulaic) A minimal level of competence or effectiveness, as used in phrases where one is unable to perform.
    My boss is so clueless, he couldn't schedule his own way out of a paper bag.
    Junior varsity couldn't play their way out of a paper bag in comparison.
    • 1923, Asia, volume 23, American Asiatic Association, page 281
      The old chap did not look as though he could push his way out of a paper bag.
    • 1924, Harry Charles Witwer, Love and Learn G. P. Putnam's sons, page 260
      Personally I don’t think this egg could punch his way out of a paper bag. He’s only been workin’ in this trap two days

See also[edit]