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#137951 - 01/24/05 05:54 AM Sticking point...
maverick Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/15/00
Posts: 4757
Can’t {do that} for toffee!

How familiar is the phrase or a variant to all y’all?

Does anyone know the origin? ~ I haven’t had a mo to check the normal sources, but if any ace researcher has a chance please feel free ;)

#137952 - 01/24/05 06:00 AM Re: Sticking point...
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
Ain' never heard it, mav.

Hope I'll see this on wordorigins.

#137953 - 01/24/05 06:34 AM Re: Sticking point...
Vernon Compton Offline

Registered: 06/29/01
Posts: 273
Loc: NZ
I heard it recently for the first time. Some television programme, I think. That's all I can remember of it.

#137954 - 01/24/05 06:38 AM Re: Sticking point...
plutarch Offline

Registered: 10/10/01
Posts: 1385
Can't [do that] for toffee

Maybe it started out as "coffee", Maverick.

As in:

Can't do that for all the coffee in Arabia.

The English drink Tea so they made a "toffee" out it.

History of Coffee: [from Wikipedia]

The crop first became popular in Arabia around the 13th century, and Islam's prohibition against alcoholic beverages probably enhanced its popularity. Before 1600, coffee production was a jealously guarded secret, and fertile beans were not found outside Arabia.


#137955 - 01/24/05 06:45 AM Re: Sticking point...
maverick Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/15/00
Posts: 4757
aaahhh. I had no idea it might not be obvious. OK Fong, WO it shall be, if required, but I shall have to do my homework first or Liz'll spank me ;)

Coffee > toffee - could be I suppose, though I'd have to check it out for some example.

Anyone else heard this commonplace of my Kent (SE UK) childhood? Dang, I really need to find my OEDipus disk...

#137956 - 01/24/05 07:05 AM Re: Sticking point...
Wordwind Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 6296
Loc: Piedmont Region of Virginia, U...
I'd never heard the expression before. There are thousands of Google hits, however, for people who can't act, can't sing, can't write, can't dance, can't interface (!), etc., for toffee. A phrase origin ref. here at home doesn't list it. I'm now as curious about the origin as you, Mav'...

#137957 - 01/24/05 07:49 AM Re: Sticking point...
maverick Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/15/00
Posts: 4757
From my childhood in Kent, (S/E UK) a common phrase was “S/he can’t X for toffee” where X was the activity of the moment – substitute almost any verb! I haven’t yet done exhaustive searches but find it’s well represented on right-pond references:

can't do sth for toffee British, informal

if you say that someone can't do something for toffee, you mean that they are extremely bad at doing that thing
Annie couldn't act for toffee, but she still got a part in the school play.

(from Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms)


Toffee’s AHD entry gives: ETYMOLOGY: Alteration of taffy


(with diacritics missing)
NOUN: Inflected forms: pl. taf•fies
1. A sweet, chewy candy of molasses or brown sugar boiled until very thick and then pulled with the hands or by machine until the candy is glossy and holds its shape. 2. Informal Flattery.
ETYMOLOGY: Origin unknown.


So if anyone has any comments on this phrase’s currency where you live, or any information on its origins....

I'd be flattered to hear from you!

#137958 - 01/24/05 03:47 PM Re: Sticking point...
Buffalo Shrdlu Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/24/02
Posts: 7210
Loc: Vermont
no useful comments, only that I've never heard it before.

but I do like toffee.

formerly known as etaoin...

#137959 - 01/24/05 03:49 PM Re: Sticking point...
Millymax Offline

Registered: 01/24/05
Posts: 14
Loc: Manchester, UK
I know that expression: 'can't do XXX for toffee'. You don't hear many people use it these days, but it's certainly familiar from my youth and childhood.

I was brought up in the UK, in London and the Midlands. I now live in Manchester, in the NW. Perhaps it's a very British phrase that never travelled.

Can't help much, apart from recognising it, I'm afraid.

#137960 - 01/24/05 11:53 PM Re: Sticking point...
Bingley Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/09/00
Posts: 3065
Loc: Jakarta
Add me to the list of those who've heard it. Maybe from toffee apples as prizes perhaps?

Welcome aboard, Millymax.


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