pretty kettle of fish

pretty kettle of fish

A difficult or awkward situation; a mess. Primarily heard in US. 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.
See also: fish, kettle, of, pretty

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]
See also: fish, kettle, of

a pretty kettle of fish

or

a fine kettle of fish

BRITISH, 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.
See also: fish, kettle, of, pretty

a pretty (or fine) kettle of fish

an 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’.
See also: fish, kettle, of, pretty

pretty kettle of fish

Irritating or embarrassing situation. The Scottish tradition of community fish-boil dinners often degenerated in brawls, to the extent that people began to refer to the events by this sarcastic phrase. Fish-boils may have evaporated, but the expression and the sarcasm haven't.
See also: fish, kettle, of, pretty
References in classic literature ?
"Well, this is a pretty kettle of fish," she said wrathfully.
Epanchin are, so there was a pretty kettle of fish. All the Bielokonskis went into mourning for the poodle.
A pretty kettle of fish it would be for me, too, to be caught with them both here, just now!
The strongest argument against our fish oil belief was published in mid-July on the Cochrane Database and at this point we're left with a pretty kettle of fish. (2) Abdelhamid and colleagues performed the most comprehensive meta-analysis we've seen to date.
The Italians really are the masters of turning a pretty kettle of fish into an historic bouillabaisse.
The discomfort of this event might have led to the phrase pretty kettle of fish, meaning an awkward or uncomfortable scenario.
In her steely way, though, she described the abdication crisis as "a pretty kettle of fish".