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be neither fish nor fowl

To be difficult to describe or definitively categorize. What genre of music is this? It's neither fish nor fowl to me.
See also: fish, fowl, neither, nor

neither fish nor fowl

Neither one thing nor another; not belonging to any suitable class or description; not recognizable or characteristic of any one particular thing. We require a solution that directly deals with the issue at hand, but the proposal that has been put forward is, to my mind, neither fish nor fowl.
See also: fish, fowl, neither, nor

neither fish, flesh, nor fowl

Neither one thing nor another; not belonging to any suitable class or description; not recognizable or characteristic of any one particular thing. We require a solution that directly deals with the issue at hand, but what the chancellor has put forward is, to my mind, neither fish, flesh nor fowl.
See also: fowl, neither, nor

run foul of (someone or something)

1. In sailing, to collide or become entangled with something. The schooner lost control and ran foul of the lead boat. The small power boat ran foul of the seaweed and was completely immobilized.
2. To be in severe disagreement, trouble, or difficulty with someone or something; to be at odds with someone or something, especially due to disobeying rules or laws. Always look into the laws of any place you visit, or you may end up unwittingly running foul of the local police. Ms. Banks has run foul of this university for the last time. She is no longer welcome here!
See also: foul, of, run
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

neither fish nor fowl

Cliché not any recognizable thing. The car that they drove up in was neither fish nor fowl. It must have been made out of spare parts. This proposal is neither fish nor fowl. I can't tell what you're proposing.
See also: fish, fowl, neither, nor
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

neither fish nor fowl

Also, neither fish nor flesh; neither fish, flesh, nor fowl. Not one or the other, not something fitting any category under discussion. For example, They felt he was neither fish nor fowl-not qualified to lead the department, yet not appropriate to work as a staff member either . This expression appeared in slightly different form in John Heywood's 1546 proverb collection ("Neither fish, nor flesh, nor good red herring") and is thought to allude to food for monks ( fish, because they abstained from meat), for the people ( flesh, or meat), and for the poor ( red herring, a very cheap fish).
See also: fish, fowl, neither, nor
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.

neither fish nor fowl

If something or someone is neither fish nor fowl, they are difficult to identify or understand, because they seem partly like one thing and partly like another. Brunel's vessel was neither fish nor fowl: a passenger liner too ugly and dirty to offer much beyond novelty value. In the American sports press, this athlete is neither fish nor fowl, neither American nor entirely foreign. Note: People occasionally replace fish with flesh. She didn't look one of anything to Oatsie, neither flesh nor fowl, neither idiot nor intellectual. Note: `Fowl' is an old-fashioned word for a hen or other bird.
See also: fish, fowl, neither, nor
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

neither fish nor fowl (nor good red herring)

of indefinite character and difficult to identify or classify.
This expression arose with reference to dietary laws formerly laid down by the Church during periods of fasting or abstinence.
See also: fish, fowl, neither, nor
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

neither ˌfish nor ˈfowl

neither one thing nor another: Graduate teaching assistants are neither fish nor fowl, neither completely students nor teachers.
See also: fish, fowl, neither, nor
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

neither fish nor fowl

Having no specific characteristics; indefinite.
See also: fish, fowl, neither, nor
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

neither fish, flesh, nor fowl

Not one or the other; not fitting any category. This term dates from the sixteenth century and appeared in John Heywood’s 1546 Proverbs as “She is nother fyshe, nor fleshe, nor good red hearyng [herring].” The analogy refers to food for monks (fish), for the people (meat), and for the poor (red herring). Shakespeare also used the term; when Falstaff insults Mistress Quickly, he says she’s an otter because “She’s neither fish nor flesh; a man knows not where to have her” (Henry IV, Part 1, 3.3).
See also: fowl, neither, nor
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer

neither fish nor fowl

Having no specific characteristics or category, not easily characterized. The phrase, which was originally “neither fish nor flesh nor fowl,” appeared in slightly different form in a 16th-century collection of proverbs as “neither fish, nor flesh, nor good red herring”: fish for monks who ate no meat, flesh for people who could afford meat, and cheap herring for the poor. The phrase is reminiscent of the old riddle: What is neither fish nor flesh, feathers nor bone/but still has fingers and thumbs of its own? Answer: a glove.
See also: fish, fowl, neither, nor
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price
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