carry guts to a bear v phr Also pack guts to a bear, tote ~, (by folk-etym) carry guts to a barrel [Attested in English sources from 17th cent→]
To do the most menial or simple task—usu in phrr not be fit to carry guts to a bear, not have sense enough ~ and varr.
1790 Osborne’s NH Spy (Portsmouth) 7 Apr /2, The following is related of an old Humourist who formerly lived in this town. . . One day . . Joe indulged this freedom so far as to reply to the Col. . . “Why Col.—you a’n’t fit to carry guts to [a] bear.” The Col. enrag’d at his impertinence, exclaimed, “Joe,—you rascal, if you do not unsay what you have just said, I will never forgive you,”—“Why Lor, Col. (replies Joe) I didn’t mean any harm—I will unsay it—you are fit to carry guts to a bear.” The Col. was silent. 1806 Brackenridge Gaz. Pub. 313 PA, What is there in the orifice / Of oral organ or of eyes, / That you should only gape and stare, / Just fit to carry guts to a bear? / Arise and shake your slumber off; / You have capacity enough. 1833 Neal Down-Easters 81 ME, That air chap’s no gentleman . . [he] aint fit to carry guts to a bear. 1875 People (Indianapolis IN) 24 July 2/4, I do not have faith in crusades, but I do think that many men are entrusted with licenses to sell liquors who ain’t fit to carry guts to a bear. 1903 DN 2.323 seMO, Pack guts to a bear. . . Signifying a low occupation. Used in the expression: ‘He isn’t fitten to pack guts to a bear.’ An expression of extreme contempt. 1914 DN 4.70 ME, nNH, Carry guts to a bear, he ain’t got sense enough to. . . Equivalent of “He doesn’t know enough to come in when it rains.” 1926 (1968)Hurston in Fire 42, “There oughter be a law about him,” said Lindsay. “He aint fit tuh carry guts tuh a bear.” Clarke spoke for the first time. “Taint no law on earth dat kin make a man be decent if it aint in ’im.” 1960 Williams Walk Egypt 179 GA, Can’t tote guts to a bear. 1967–68 DARE (Qu. JJ15a, Sayings about a person who seems to you very stupid: “He hasn’t sense enough to _____.”) Infs MD22, VA29, Carry guts to a bear; LA11, 16, Carry guts to a barrel. 1977 Daily Std. (Sikeston MO) 21 Apr 10/5, [Letter:] Any Man or Woman that teaches that to kids is not fit to carry guts to a bear or sleep with the hogs. I agree with Antia Bryant 100 per cent totaly. [1998 Orange Co. Reg. (Santa Ana CA) 17 June Food sec 4/1, From early childhood, my brothers and I knew exactly what each phrase meant. If you “didn’t have brains enough not to carry guts to a bear in a leather apron,” it meant you had made an error in judgment.]