phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: Fish or Cut Bait

Posted by ESC on November 11, 2005

In Reply to: Fish or Cut Bait posted by Tom Phillips on November 10, 2005

: I disagree with the posted information regarding the expression "Fish or Cut Bait." As posted:
: Meaning
: Either do some useful work or leave and let other get on with it.
: Origin
: US origin. Cut bait means stop fishing.
: It is widely believed that the above is the meaning of the expression. However, "Cut bait" does not mean "stop fishing." "Cut bait" should be taken literally here, i.e. cutting up small fish into chunks of fish bait. Hence, the literal meaning is "Fish, or do something to prepare for fishing." So, the expression means: "Get the job done, or at least do something that will later help in getting the job done."

I think we've have this discussion before. Not sure who is right. This guy agrees with you:

FISH OR CUT BAIT - From the "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman . "Make a choice now; either fish or 'cut bait' and go home. 'Cut bait' means stop fishing. In other words, do your job or let somebody else do it. Originated in the United States in the nineteenth century among fishermen. Later the saying could be heard even in Congress. On August 5, 1876, Joseph Gurney Cannon, Congressman of Illinois, calling on House to adopt a monetary bill, said, 'Now I want you gentlemen on the other side of the House to 'fish or cut bait'.'."