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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."