Posted by Smokey Stover on March 28, 2004
In Reply to: Re: Happy fishing posted by al on March 24, 2004
: : : Anyone know the history of this expression. Was it a popular sport. It means easy, but I'm not sure I belive this.
: : : First off, barrels aren't see through, so you cannot see what you're shooting at. Second, if there's water in the barrel, would you still be able to shoot the fish. Any thoughts appreciated.
: : I don't think that this is an activity ever practised. The phrase is meant to indicate an easy task. It would surely be easier and quicker than catching fish in a river.
: : If you want to try it out, shoot from the uncovered top! You'll have to allow for refraction when taking aim. The archer fish manages this when shooting prey which lives out of water, so it shouldn't be too great a problem. Happy fishing!
: >>"I don't think that this is an activity ever practised."<< When we were kids we would catch fish with a net in the river and put them in a barrel alive for temporary keeping. One shot into the barrel (the top of the barrel had been removed) would produce a shock wave and all the fish would float to the top. It was much easier than attempting to catch the live fish swimming around in circles in the barrel.
This has been an edifying discussion. I had always taken it for granted that "shooting fish in a barrel" was intended to epitomize, if not something easy, then unsportsmanlike behavior--like a turkey shoot. But it turns out that finding a definition of "turkey shoot" may not be so easy. Turkeys are, of course, poor fliers and slow on the ground, travel in flocks and are easy targets once you find them. But neither The American Heritage Dictionary nor the OED actually defines a turkey shoot. The MWOD defines it as: "A marksmanship contest using a moving target with a turkey offered as a prize." (I didn't make that up.) I think there must be other phrases used to epitomize easy and unsportsmanlike kills, but I can't think of any. SS