Content-Type: text/shitpost

Subject: Pouring piss out of a boot
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!gormenghast​!extro​!forbin​!berserker​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-01-25T11:53:21
Newsgroup: alt.binaries.pouring-piss-out-of-a-boot
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Among my favorite phrases of American English is:

They couldn't pour piss out of a boot

which is excellent all by itself, and the elaborated form

They couldn't pour piss out of a boot with the instructions printed on the heel

which is maybe a little overdone, but I admire its inventiveness. Who thought this up? It's genius. So specific, so evocative! It really calls to mind a picture of this person struggling to figure out how to pour piss out of a boot, which is fucking hilarious.

Poking around a bit in Google Books, the earliest citation I can find is from Lawrence Edward Watkin's 1941 novel Gentleman from England:

… I ain't got the sense to pour piss out of a boot.

There is more to the sentence, but Google won't tell me what it is.

The earliest citation for the longer form is in one of the selections in Cross Section 1947: A collection of new American writing, Edwin Seaver (ed.):

“Shit. These tenants ain't got sense to pour piss out of a boot with directions wrote on the heel. …”

There are 28 short stories in the collection, and the Google snippet doesn't give me enough information to identify which one. Copies are cheap and easy to come by, and I'm tempted to order one.

I think it's interesting that both of these early citations are about how someone ain't got sense to…. I wonder if they're both alluding to some earlier instance, maybe prominent at the time, that was phrased that way.

Watkin is better-known for writing the screenplay for Walt Disney's 1950 film version of Treasure Island.