Green’s Dictionary of Slang

not worth a... phr.

in addition to the most popular combs. listed separately below, there are a number of terms listed at the relevant n. (e.g. not worth a bumper under bumper n.4 ), plus a number of less common phrs. are listed below here, all meaning worthless, useless (and occas. used without ‘not’ to mean the same thing), e.g. that’s worth a whoop in hell; see also the adv. phrs. listed at worth a... phr.; examples are listed alphabetically rather than by date and the dating for these combinations can be anything from mid-16C to 1990s+.

In phrases

...a bean
[UK]‘Bashe Libel’ in May & Bryson Verse Libel 76: But will you know what Bashe I mean? / (Or else wear not worth a beane).
...a button
‘Martin Marprelate’ Cuthbert Curry-Knaues Alms E: Ale is not worth a button, if it be too stale.
...a cracker
[Aus]G. Casey It’s Harder for Girls 126: ‘He’s got guts, anyway,’ said Sayers. ‘I didn’t think he was worth a cracker.’.
[Aus]T.A.G. Hungerford Riverslake 221: Any man without some sort of loyalty to whoever pays his wages isn’t worth a cracker.
...a farthing
[UK]C. Johnson Hist. of Highwaymen &c. 101: What cudgel me for a Radish or two which are not worth a Farthing.
[UK]‘Peter Pindar’ ‘Lyric Odes’ Works (1794) I 42: Painted by Mister Edward Penny! They truly are not worth one half a farthing.
...a fly
[UK]J. Rastell Gentleness and Nobility line 210: That ye have made therof, be not worth a fly.
[UK]T. Stanhope ‘To Master John Markham’ in May & Bryson Verse Libel 100: Farewell scabbed crooke-back, not worthie a flye.
[UK]R. Fletcher ‘Upon a Flye that Flew into a Lady’s Eye’ Epigrams and Poems 186: Hence we cry, The world, the world’s not worth a Fly.
...a leek (also ...two leeks)
[UK]Skelton Why Come Ye Nat to Courte? line 286: What here ye of the lord Rose? Nothynge to purpose Nat worth a cockly fose! [i.e. wrinkled leek].
[UK]Skelton Colyn Cloute (1550) Aiiii: They make her [i.e. a horse] winche and kicke But it is not worthe a leeke.
[UK]D. Lyndsay Satyre of Thrie Estaits (1604) 19: Princis [...] ar nocht worth ane leik.
...a mag
[UK]Comic Almanack Aug. 324: It’s a science; methinks – tho’ La Fontaine may brag, / That, in language of slang, sir, is not worth a mag.
[UK]Dickens Bleak House (1991) 735: If he don’t keep such a business as the present as close as possible it can’t be worth a mag to him.
...a plum (also ...two plums)
[UK]Skelton Why Come Ye Nat to Courte? line 603: Ye horsons [...] ye churles sonnys, Ye rebawds, nat worth two plummis!
[UK]‘Peter Pindar’ ‘More Money’ Works (1794) III 159: The conversation! – Lord! not worth a plum!
...a preen
D. Lyndsay Satyre of Three Estaits (1604) 6: My purchais is nocht worth ane preine.
[UK]Burns To W. Simpson in Works (1842) 36/1: My memory’s no worth a preen.
R.L. Stevenson ‘The Scotsman’s Return’ in Underwoods (1906) 122: A bletherin’ clan, no warth a preen, As bad as Smith o’ Aiberdeen!
...a rush (also ...a bulrush)
M. Drayton Nymphal II in Chalmers IV (1810) 449/2: His sparrows are not worth a rush.
[UK]L. Barry Ram-Alley V i: If the best part of a man is gone, The rest of the body is not worth a rush.
[UK]J. Taylor ‘Praise of Hemp-Seed’ in Works (1869) III 65: The Vintners trade were hardly worth a rush.
[US]N. Whiting Albino and Bellama 103: The Sybils virgine is not worth a rush hob.
[UK]R. L’Estrange Erasmus Colloquies 167: All your Priviledges are not worth a Rush.
[UK]Dickens Oliver Twist (1867) 115: But don’t move a step forward, or your life’s not worth a bulrush!
Amer. Presbyterian Review Oct. 533: Repentance for an hour, or a day, is not worth a bulrush.
...a snap (of one’s fingers)
[US]A.F. Hill Our Boys 235: In six months your government at Washington will go smash, and your green trash won’t be worth a snap.
[UK]W.B. Churchward Blackbirding In The South Pacific 95: The fishing is not worth a snap.
[UK]D. Lowrie My Life in Prison 203: My life won’t be worth a snap of your fingers if I stay here.
...a tinker’s cuss/damn
R. Service ‘Aspiration’ in Cosmic Carols (1965) 470: This wealth of thirty million cells or so, / Will not be worth a lousy tinker’s cuss.
[US]P. Conroy Great Santini (1977) 309: Jim Don, you ain’t worth a tinker’s damn.
...a whoop (in hell)
[US]K. McGaffey Sorrows of a Show Girl Ch. ix: This Beatrice Fairfax dope may be all right in the simple country maiden, but it don’t go in the show business worth a whoop.
[US]P. Kyne Cappy Ricks 20: A young fellow that appears to be worth a whoop in hell.
[US]C.B. Davis Rebellion of Leo McGuire (1953) 239: It was either said or implied that any other sort [...] wasn’t worth a whoop in hell.
...three skips of a louse
[[UK]Swift ‘Mrs. Harris’s Petition’ in Chalmers Eng. Poets XI (1810) 373/1: ’Tis not that I value the money three skips of a louse].
(con. mid-19C) E.D. Spencer Gold Country 95: Although there are good things come up from Old Taos, / Its whiskey ain’t worth three skips of a louse.
(con. c.1700) J.I. Cooper Ontario’s First Century 102: Secure in such powerful backing, Nixon could afford to declare that it was ‘not worth three skips of a louse’ for him to curry favour with his subordinates.