herring

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Related to herrings: King of herrings

neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring

obsolete Not belonging to any suitable class of thing; unfit for any purpose or to be used by anyone. This older phrase appeared in a 16th-century proverb collection, where fish refers to food for monks (who abstained from meat), flesh refers to food for the general populace, and "good red herring" refers to inexpensive fish that would have been food for the poor. With crime as it is in this township, the law must be aggressive and dependable; unfortunately, the new constable is neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring.
See also: good, herring, neither, nor, red

red herring

Something irrelevant that diverts attention away from the main problem or issue. The candidate used the minor issue as a red herring to distract voters from the corruption accusations against him. The mystery writer is known for introducing red herrings to arouse the reader's suspicion of innocent characters.
See also: herring, red

red herring

a piece of information or suggestion introduced to draw attention away from the real facts of a situation. (A red herring is a type of strong-smelling smoked fish that was once drawn across the trail of a scent to mislead hunting dogs and put them off the scent.) The detectives were following a red herring, but they're on the right track now. The mystery novel has a couple of red herrings that keep readers off guard.
See also: herring, red

(as) dead as a doornail

1. obviously dead The fox in the road was dead as a doornail.
2. not active at all Nothing ever happens in our town - it's as dead as a doornail.
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of doornail (a nail with a large head)
See also: dead, doornail

a red herring

something that takes people's attention away from the main subject being talked or written about About halfway through the book it looked as though the butler was the murderer, but that turned out to be a red herring.
See also: herring, red

dead as a doornail

Also, dead as a dodo or herring . Totally or assuredly dead; also finished. For example, The cop announced that the body in the dumpster was dead as a doornail, or The radicalism she professed in her adolescence is now dead as a dodo, or The Equal Rights Amendment appears to be dead as a herring. The first, oldest, and most common of these similes, all of which can be applied literally to persons or, more often today, to issues, involves doornail, dating from about 1350. Its meaning is disputed but most likely it referred to the costly metal nails hammered into the outer doors of the wealthy (most people used the much cheaper wooden pegs), which were clinched on the inside of the door and therefore were "dead," that is, could not be used again. Dead as a herring dates from the 16th century and no doubt alludes to the bad smell this dead fish gives off, making its death quite obvious. Dead as a dodo, referring to the extinct bird, dates from the early 1900s.
See also: dead, doornail

red herring

Something that draws attention away from the central issue, as in Talking about the new plant is a red herring to keep us from learning about downsizing plans . The herring in this expression is red and strong-smelling from being preserved by smoking. The idiom alludes to dragging a smoked herring across a trail to cover up the scent and throw off tracking dogs. [Late 1800s]
See also: herring, red

dead as a doornail

Undoubtedly dead.
See also: dead, doornail

red herring

A misleading clue. Many people who know the phrase believe it came from the practice of game poachers laying scents of smoked herring (smoking accounted for the fish's reddish color) to throw gamekeepers and their dogs off the poachers' scent. However, etymologists discount that explanation, favoring instead that the phrase originated with an English writer who used the scent-laying image as a metaphor for a particular political plan. Mystery writers, readers, and critics use “red herring” to describe a piece of plotting intended to throw the reader off in deducing who-done-it. The financial world uses the phrase to mean a stock prospectus, not from any intent to deceive, but because the document has a red cover.
See also: herring, red
References in classic literature ?
For, coz, since all thoughts are things, you have but to think a pair of herrings, and then conjure up a pottle of milk wherewith to wash them down.
The peasant's gossip had been of the hunt, of the bracken, of the gray-headed kites that had nested in Wood Fidley, and of the great catch of herring brought back by the boats of Pitt's Deep.
Sit down here, friend, and partake of this herring.
I know one or two wretched starving creatures like that who quote Aristotle at you over a fried herring and a pint of porter.
If a pack can track a trailed herring across a shire, how far can a specially-trained hound follow so pungent a smell as this?
But this boy could do it--seventy feet I know he cleared in one dive from the rigging--clenched hands on chest, head thrown back, sailing more like a bird, upward and out, and out and down, body flat on the air so that if it struck the surface in that position it would be split in half like a herring.
The herring schooled and the fishing village woke to life.
Each boy had a quarter of a loaf of bread and pat of butter, and as much tea as he pleased; and there was scarcely one who didn't add to this some further luxury, such as baked potatoes, a herring, sprats, or something of the sort.