Posted by R. Berg on June 14, 2001
In Reply to: Fishing trip posted by Patty on June 14, 2001
: A while back, I was listening to a man who said he and a friend were stopped while driving in his pick-up truck. The game officers who stopped them searched the truck for rifles or ammunition (because this was not during deer-hunting season). The man was livid as he recounted the story, and described the game officers as being on "a fishing trip."
: I don't want to assume I know exactly what was meant here. But also, how long has this phrase been used in connection with regulations or legal matters. Anything about the usage of the phrase would be interesting. - Patty
The version I've usually heard with that sense is "fishing expedition." It comes up during trials. An attorney questioning a witness is accused (by the other attorney) of going on a fishing expedition if the questions are open-ended enough to suggest that the attorney doesn't have all the facts and is looking for anything that might support his or her case. Apparently a courtroom differs from the outside world in that the only legitimate questions are the ones you already have the answers to.
A while back the OED's Word of the Day was "fish" (verb), and this sense was missing although, for example, "fish for compliments" was covered.