Are there any phrases like "Couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery" or "Couldn't organise a root in a brothel" that are reasonably common, indicate organisational incompetence, have a degree of irony (as opposed to "Couldn't run a chook raffle", or answers to the more general question Is there a proverb or idiom describing incompetence?) and aren't vulgar?

Wiktionary suggests couldn't organise a bun fight in a bakery, and while it does appear in real life (example: Brisbane port ready for naval expansion), it doesn't appear to be common. Are there any that are non-vulgar and are more common?

Related, but not as specific in its requirements: Is there a proverb or idiom describing incompetence?

  • In case anyone's wondering: it's prompted by a real estate magnate reportedly not being able to book a hotel room. – Andrew Grimm Jul 9 '17 at 10:50
  • Possible duplicate of Is there a proverb or idiom describing incompetence? – NVZ Jul 9 '17 at 11:09
  • 1
    @NVZ "Couldn't hit water if they fell out of a boat." has the required level of irony, but isn't about organisational incompetence. The rest aren't ironic, or are vulgar. – Andrew Grimm Jul 9 '17 at 11:18
  • 1
    "Couldn't organize a two-car parade" is SFW. It could be varied to suit the incompetence, e.g., couldn't book a two-car parade. I myself sometimes use "Couldn't run a grocery cart in a supermarket." – Xanne Jul 10 '17 at 7:28
  • 1
    I don't swear so I use "couldn't organise a drinking session in a brewery" and it always went down alright. But this is my own invention. – RedSonja Jan 17 '18 at 11:31

Wiktionary also suggests couldn't pour water out of a boot which does sound less vulgar that the others options.

Alternative form:

couldn't pour water out of a boot with the instructions on the heel.

(Synonym of couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery)

| improve this answer | |

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

I am the organizer in my house, but I am also the breadwinner, so my husband does the schooling. He couldn't organize his way out of a wet paper bag without a manual. (I love him, but he is the archeotype of an artist)


It's obviously a bit casual, but if you Google "organize""out of a wet paper bag", you find countless examples buried in forums and video comments.

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!"

discussion here - https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/out-of-a-paper-bag.28317/

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.