kettle of fish, a fine/pretty(redirected from a fine/pretty kettle of fish)
kettle of fish
Any given situation or issue. Used with specific modifiers depending on the context, especially "fine" or "pretty" for something difficult or awkward, and "different" or "another" for something dissimilar. Well, that's a pretty kettle of fish. I thought I paid the credit card bill, but it turns out that I missed the due date by a week. I know you think you're ready for parenthood just because you take care of two dogs, but raising a baby is a completely different kettle of fish.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
kettle of fish
1. Also, a fine or pretty kettle of fish . An unpleasant or messy predicament, as in They haven't spoken in years, and they're assigned to adjoining seats-that's a fine kettle of fish . This term alludes to the Scottish riverside picnic called kettle of fish, where freshly caught salmon were boiled and eaten out of hand. [Early 1700s]
2. a different or another kettle of fish . A very different matter or issue, not necessarily a bad one. For example, They're paying for the meal? That's a different kettle of fish. [First half of 1900s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
a pretty kettle of fishor
a fine kettle of fishBRITISH, OLD-FASHIONED
If you describe a situation as a pretty kettle of fish or a fine kettle of fish, you mean that it is difficult or unpleasant. Well, this is a pretty kettle of fish, as Queen Mary said. Note: `Kettle' in these expressions may come from `kiddle'. Kiddles were baskets or nets which were laid in streams and rivers to catch fish. Alternatively, `kettle' may refer to a fish kettle, which is a long narrow saucepan that is used for cooking fish.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
a pretty (or fine) kettle of fishan awkward state of affairs. informal
In late 18th-century Scotland, a kettle of fish was a large saucepan of fish, typically freshly caught salmon, cooked at Scottish picnics, and the term was also applied to the picnic itself. By the mid 18th century, the novelist Henry Fielding was using the phrase to mean ‘a muddle’.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
kettle of fish, a fine/pretty
A messy predicament. This term is believed to come from a Scottish custom of holding a riverside picnic, itself called a “kettle of fish,” where freshly caught live salmon are thrown into a kettle boiling over an open fire and then are eaten out of hand, definitely a messy procedure. Sir Walter Scott described just such a picnic in St. Ronan’s Well (1824), but the transfer to other kinds of messy predicament had already occurred in the early eighteenth century. The term appears in Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews (1742) and works by Dickens, Hardy, Shaw, and many others, but it may now be dying out, at least in America.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer