They pulled him on to the bank and turned him over. I know this man, he said. His friend said, who owns him? Nobody owns him, but he curses in German, therefore let us take him to the German House, for I myself am staying not at the Tuscan House but with a man who runs a foundry. Karl Heinz said, you are dealing in arms? and he said, no, altar cloths. Karl Heinz said, you are as likely to shit rubies as learn an Englishman’s secrets.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

What is the meaning of 'to shit rubies' here?

  • got it. thanks. why don't you write an answer then i can nicely close this question with an answer that I take. – whitecap Oct 12 '15 at 23:16

It means exactly what it says.

An "as likely as" phrase is a comparison of things that might occur. So what is the likelihood of either action occurring? One is pretty obvious.
The other one, "learn an Englishman’s secrets" is asking you to understand the likelihood based on the other one.

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