couldn't (do something) to save (one's) life(redirected from couldn't to save life)
couldn't (do something) to save (one's) life
slang Cannot do something well or at all. Ugh, this art assignment is so annoying—I couldn't draw an apple to save my life. Rachel is so selfish! She couldn't consider another person's feelings to save her life.
to save one's life
Even if one's life depended on it, as in I couldn't eat another bite to save my life, or Betty wouldn't climb a mountain to save her life. This hyperbolic expression nearly always follows a negative statement that one wouldn't or couldn't do something. Anthony Trollope used a slightly different wording in The Kellys and the O'Kellys (1848): "I shan't remain long, if it was to save my life and theirs; I can't get up small talk for the rector and his curate."
to save your lifeused in various expressions, especially can't (or couldn't ) do something to save your life , to indicate that the person in question is very incompetent at doing something.
The first recorded use of this expression is by Anthony Trollope in The Kellys and O'Kellys ( 1848 ): ‘If it was to save my life and theirs, I can't get up small talk for the rector and his curate’.