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Fish

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The reason why fish are employed as card-counters is from a misapprehension of the French word fiche (a five-son piece). The two points allowed for the “rub” are called in French la fiche de consolation. The Spanish word pez has also a double meaning—a “winning,” or a “fish;” pez is the Welsh pysg, Latin piscʹ, English fish.

A loose fish. One of loose or dissolute habits. Fish implying a human being is derogatory, but bird is a loving term, as my “bony bird,” etc. Beast is most reproachful, as “You are a beast.”

A pretty kettle of fish. (See Kittle.)

A queer fish. An eccentric person. (See above, Loose Fish.)

All is fish that comes to my net. “Auri bonus est odor ex re qualibet.” I am willing to deal in anything out of which I can make a profit. I turn everything to some use.

“Al is fishe that cometh to the net.”—G. Gascoigns: The Steele Glas (died 1577).

He eats no fish; he is not a papist: he is an honest man, and one to be trusted. In the reign of Elizabeth papists were opposed to the Government, and Protestants, to show their loyalty, refused to eat fish on Fridays to show they were not papists.


“I do profess … . to serve him truly . . . . and to eat no fish.”—Shakespeare: King Lear, i. 4.

I have other fish to fry;Jʹai bien dʹautres affaires en lête;” “Aliud mihi est agendum;” I am busy and cannot attend to [that] now; I have other matters to attend to.

Mute as a fish. Fish have no language like birds, beasts, and insects. Their utmost power of sound is a feeble cry of pain, the result of intestinal respiration. The French also say “mute comme un poisson.”

The best fish smell when they are three days old;lʹhóte et le poisson puent passé trois jours.” “Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house, lest he get weary of thee, and so hate thee” (Prov. xxv. 17). “Donʹt outstay your welcome.”

The best fish swim near the bottom. “Le meilleur poisson nage près du fond.” What is most commercially valuable is not to be found on the surface of the earth, nor is anything else really valuable to be obtained without trouble. “Il faut casser le noyau pour en avoir lʹamande,” for “Nil sine magno vita labore dedit mortalibus.”

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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Fire and Sword
Fire and Water
Firm as a Rock
First-class Hard Labour
First-fruits
First Water
First Gentleman of Europe
First Grenadier of France
First Stroke is Half the Battle
Fish
Fish
Fish
Fish-day (A) [jour maigre]
Fish-wife (A)
Fish and Flesh
Fish-in Troubled Water (To)
Fish it Out (To)
Fish out of Water
Fisher of Souls (The great)
Fisherman
Fishing