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Fish and Fishing Idioms in English


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There are so many idioms in English that make reference to fish and/or to fishing.  I was realizing this from reading one of our previous threads -- "More Fish in the Sea" which you can see here:

http://linguaholic.com/english-idioms/more-fish-in-the-sea-d/

 

Those idioms were focused primarily on dating. But beyond dating there a many other idioms with fish,  and other creatures of the sea; whales, oysters, eels, etc.  Likewise, the profession or pastime of fishing has been the subject of many idioms. 

 

Here are some that I thought of.

Fishing Idioms in the English language

"Fish out of water"  -- meaning someone feels out of place, and/or is in an unfamiliar environment.

"She was born and raised in New York City and was a fish out of water when she spent a week at her cousin's horse farm in Kentucky."

 

"Shooting fish in a barrel"  -- something that is very easy to do or effortless. 

"He is a champion marathon runner; competing in a 10 mile run and winning was like shooting fish in a barrel."

 

"Fish or cut bait" -- do something or avoid getting in the way of others.  It can also mean make a decision and act accordingly.

"We have to finish this report in an hour.  Are you going to fish or cut bait?"

 

Please add to the list. :)

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Like being a "big fish in a small pond" (making yourself more important by going to a smaller group or community.

"happy as a clam" (extremely content ot satisfied)

putting "pearls before swine" (giving or exposing something valuable to someone who will not appreciate it)

These are my understanding of these idioms.  I believe "casting pearls before swine" actually originated as a biblical quote and developed into the above usage.

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  • 1 month later...
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  • 2 months later...

I have been really enjoying this fish idioms thread so far  :grin: Let me add to the list.

(sth. being) off the hook

Everyday meaning: "To let someone off the hook" means that you are not going to hold him (or her) responsible for something.

Literal meaning:

This refers to the fish that got off the hook before it could be reeled in; the fish that got away.

I actually think there is another possible interpretation of something being "off the hook", meaning that something is great/crazy (for instance: This party was just off the hook). Can somebody confirm this?

Another fish idiom would be Hook, line, and sinker

Literal Meaning:

-->Different parts of a Fishing Rod

Figurative Meaning:

To fall hook, line, and sinker” for something means to be tricked into believing something (completely).

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  • 3 weeks later...

And. . .

Big fish - an important person.

[be] neither fish nor fowl - something that has characteristics of two things being compared

                                    but has differences that make it entirely different from both.

Plenty more fish in the sea - used by a spurned lover to show that there are many more

                                      people who can love him out there.

Cold fish - someone who always stays aloof. 

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And. . .

Big fish - an important person.

[be] neither fish nor fowl - something that has characteristics of two things being compared

                                    but has differences that make it entirely different from both.

Plenty more fish in the sea - used by a spurned lover to show that there are many more

                                      people who can love him out there.

Cold fish - someone who always stays aloof.

As for the idomatic expression 'Plenty more fish in the sea', please note that we have a whole thread dedicated to it here:

http://linguaholic.com/english-idioms/more-fish-in-the-sea-d/

There is some really interesting discussion going on about it there, make sure to have a look at it  :wacky:

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  • 3 months later...

Two fish idioms that come to mind are:

To feel like a fish out of water- to be in an awkward position.

Have bigger fish to fry- to have more pressing matters to take care of.

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  • 1 year later...
On 19.11.2013 at 7:14 AM, limon said:

"Packed in like sardines" although very few people I know seem to eat tinned sardines, it's mostly tuna XD

 

and one of my favorite English expressions;

 

"a (pretty) kettle of fish" meaning a mess, an awkward situation, or complicated problem.

It's been a long time since I have heard either of those idioms.  There's also "be a different kettle of fish" which means to be extremely different from what was just discussed or what is considered normal.  "You were telling me about all of your exes, how about your current girlfriend?"  "Oh, she's a different kettle of fish altogether." That are my contributions about fishing idioms.

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  • 5 months later...

I think there's something which goes like this: "Eat a lot of fish". It's supposed to mean that eating a lot of fish makes a person smarter. Not really sure how this works, since if fish were really that smart, we wouldn't be able to catch any, would we? Here's one which I am not really sure is a widely used idiom. When we say a woman is like a "frozen fish", we mean that she is frigid, unresponsive to sexual approaches. Is this used anywhere else?

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To "carp" about something is to complain.  "Becky hates her job.  She carps about it all the time!" (A carp is also a type of fish, in the same group as a koi or a catfish.)
If something is "like trying to drown a fish", it's something that is not effective and a waste of time.
If someone has "a memory like a goldfish", it means that they have trouble remembering things.  (This is based on myth, since goldfish can remember things for years.)
There's also "jumping the shark", which is used in TV and entertainment.  It means doing something crazy and unbelievable to try and keep people watching the show, and it usually a sign that said show is going downhill.
I hope these help!

Edited by GaeilgeGirl
I just remembered another fish idiom!
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Shark repellent is something that prevents corporate takeovers.  A shark can be a swindler or a lawyer.  Shark bait is a gullible or naive person that usually gets conned or used to get the bad guys to come out into the open. If you're swimming with sharks, you're in a very dangerous or competitive environment.  Blue or green around the gills means to be sick. To clam up is to stop talking while a cold fish is someone who is who is unfriendly and anti-social.  Drink like a fish is someone who can drink a excessive amount of alcohol.   A fine kettle of fish is a situation that is not satisfactory or a mess. Going on a fishing expedition is when you attempt to discover information.  If you live in a fish bowl many people know about your personal life and business.   Neither fish nor fowl is something that dosen't belong to a definite group or category.  Packed in like sardines is to be packed in very tightly or crowded.  A red herring is some information or a suggestion that is used to draw attention away from the real facts of a situation.  Rise to the bait is to be attracted by a some kind of bait.  Big fish in a small pond is an important person in person in a small place. Holy mackerel! is a politer expression than holy, sh#%!  Don't fish in muddy waters is to not involve yourself in a difficult, confused, ore dangerous situation in order to gain an advantage.

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