Posted by James Briggs on January 27, 2002
In Reply to: Soup and Fish posted by ESC on January 26, 2002
: : I had a request today, which I can't help with. Any ideas?
: : Quote: "I have looked
in vain for the derivation of the
: : phrase "soup and fish", when used to mean formal dress, specifically white tie and tail coat. It comes up frequently in Wodehouse, but I have seen it elsewhere as well. I have wondered whether it may be a reference to the dinner that would be consumed while so attired, which would surely include thick or clear soup and a fish course before the meat or game, etc. I have
: : also wondered about rhyming slang, but can come up with no suitable rhyming word describing such articles of clothing. Have you any ideas?"
: SOUP AND FISH - Dating back to 19th century America, this term for formal white-tie dinner clothes probably derives from the obsolete American term 'soup and fish' for a lavish dinner of many courses. 'Soup and fish' for an elaborate dinner, in turn, is apparently related to the still common expression 'from soup to nuts,' but this last term seems to have been first recorded in the 1920s." From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).
Many thanks. I'll pass the details on to the enquirer.