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Posted by ESC on December 07, 2000

In Reply to: Ive got bigger fish to fry posted by James Briggs on December 05, 2000

: : does anyone know where and when this phrase originated and who by I have been searching and searching but I cant find the answer I need a reply as soon as posible its for a uni project can anyone help me

: Can't answer your question for sure - I suspect the origin is lost in the mist of time. I konw the expression as 'other fish to fry' and not 'bigger'. Out of interest, the German equivalent is; "I have other hedgehogs to comb"

OTHER FISH TO FRY - "The French idea is 'il a bien d'autres chiens a fouetter,' literally, 'he has many other dogs to whip.' The Germans, with no frills, give the actual meaning -- 'andere Dinge zu tun haben,' 'to have other things to do,' as do the Italians with 'altro pel capo.' The Spaniards are equally direct though your translated version of 'Don Quixote' , Part II, chapter xV, Merlin tells the noble Don that the only way by which 'the peerless Dulcinea del Toboso' may be disenchanted is that Sancho -
'.thy good Squire,
On his bare brawny buttocks should bestow
Three thousand Lashes, and eke three hundred more,
Each to afflict, and sting, and gall him sore.'

But Sancho, quite naturally, objects to being the recipient of such indignity; the disenchantment of the fair Duchess is of no immediate concern to him; hence, 'I say, as I have said before,' quoth Sancho; 'as for the flogging, I pronounce it flat and plain.' 'Renounce, you mean,' said the Duke. 'Good your Lordship,' quoth Sancho, 'this is no Time for me to mind Niceties, and spelling of Letters: I have other Fish to fry.'

Cervantes actually wrote, 'otras cosos en que pensar,' 'other things on which to think,' but Motteux, anxious to show off his acquaintance with English idiom, adopted the phrase already well known. Just how old the 'fish' version may be is not known. The first appearance in print that has yet been found is in the 'Memoirs' of the prolific writer John Evelyn. Undoubtedly, however, it had long been familiar to his readers." From Heavens to Betsy! and Other Curious Sayings (Harper & Row, New York, 1955) by Charles Earle Funk.

THERE ARE OTHER FISH IN THE SEA (There are even better ones out there. Don't be upset over what you've lost.) has been "traced back to about 1573. First attested in the United States in 'Keziah' by J.C. Lincoln. From Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).