Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fishy Expressions

Good Sunday, Friends .....

I'm up and rested and anxious to hit the road to Louisiana this sunny morning, but not too early ....  

Each morning in my email I receive a message called "Daily Writing Tips," from an online English grammar site.  I've studied a lot of grammar in recent years while learning French and Spanish that I've felt curious about my own language and its rules of grammar.  I signed up to receive these free daily installments of grammar and interesting tidbits about our language.

Today's message is simply a lesson on the history of some of our references to the word 'fish;' I thought you might like to read it ......

The Venerable Bede (c.672-735) tells this story about Bishop Wilfrid’s conversion of the South Saxons in the 680s:
When the Bishop first came into the kingdom and saw the suffering and famine there, he taught them how to get their food by fishing: for both the sea and the rivers abounded in fish but the people had no knowledge of fishing except for eels alone. So the bishop’s men collected eel-nets from every quarter and cast them into the sea so that, with the help of divine grace, they quickly captured 300 fish of all kinds.

As the sea and rivers of Bede’s description abounded in fish, the English language abounds in expressions related to fish and fishing. Here are just a few.
1. to drink like a fish: to drink to excess.
2. to feed the fishes: to die by drowning.
3. to feel like a fish out of water: to feel out of one’s comfort zone.
4. to fish for compliments: do or say things to elicit praise from others.
5. to sound fishy: to seem dubious or suspicious.
6. All is fish that comes to his net: He makes use of everything that comes his way.
7. Fish or cut bait!: Make a decision one way or another.
8. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime: a proverb meaning that it’s more useful to a person to teach him how to do something for himself than to give him a hand-out.
9. There are plenty of other fish in the sea: a comforting remark made to someone who has broken up with a sweetheart.
10. a pretty kettle of fish: an awkward situation or state of things.
11. big fish in a small pond: someone important in a small community
12. cold fish: an unemotional person
13. Fisher King: in Grail legend, the Fisher King is the uncle of Sir Perceval. He suffers a grievous wound that cannot heal until he is asked the right question.
14. Fisherman’s ring: a seal ring presented to a pope upon taking office. The ring is used to seal official documents; when the pope dies, the ring is broken. The apostle Peter, who was a fisherman, is regarded by the Catholic Church as having been the first pope.
15. fishing expedition: an attempt to elicit information by asking random questions.
16. fishwife: literally, a woman who sells fish; figuratively, a loud vulgar woman who shouts abuse
17. queer fish: an eccentric person

I’ll leave fish-related expressions involving mackerelsherringssardines, and gills for another time. 


  1. Have a safe drive.

    Do you swim like a fish?

    1. Actually I've always said I'm more comfortable in water than out. That may not be so true in the last few years!

  2. Yes, be safe as you swim along that migration pathway us humans call I-10....--Dave

  3. The phrase “fishers of men” was spoken by Jesus when He was calling two of His disciples, Simon Peter and Andrew, to follow Him.
    There's also the online dating service "plenty of fish" which you mention in item #9.
    Ben Franklin said "Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days."

    1. I love the Ben Franklin quote. I arrived at Sam Houston Jones State Park in Lake Charles, LA. It was 64F when I drove in; now it's 58. It's a lovely park and I'm watching 11 deer walking by the coach as I type. Nice.

  4. AND my 60's favorite .. A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle ~ I had the T-Shirt... :)

  5. Replies
    1. Ha - Ha.

      I'm watching deer right outside my window at Sam Houston Jones State Park in Lake Charles, LA. It's so serene.

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