one fish, two fishes

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Aug 8 18:35:02 UTC 2010

At 8/8/2010 01:22 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>  So is "fish" more like "sheep", "shrimp", "fruit" or "people"? Always
>a puzzle in ESL environments
>     VS-)

Yes, I believe so.

For "fishes":  Under 1.a, the OED quotes an authority who uses the
plural to refer to more than one species:
      1653 WALTON Angler 179 He [the Pearch] is one of the fishes of prey.
There also is:
      1695 WOODWARD Nat. Hist. Earth III. i. (1723) 153 Whales..and
other great Fishes.
      1774 GOLDSM. Nat. Hist. IV. 3 The whale, the limpet, the
tortoise and the men have been willing to give them all
the name of fishes, it is wisest for us to conform.

And elsewhere in the "fish" entry:
      1820 LAMB Elia, South-Sea-House, Humourists, for they were of
all descriptions..Odd fishes.  [The precise essayist matches "of all
descriptions" with the plural meaning more than one species.]
      "fish-bed, a deposit containing the fossil remains of fishes".
      1748 Phil. Trans. XLV. 233 The other [order of Fishes] is
furnish'd with Organs analogous to Lungs, which we call *Fish-Ears,
or Gills.  [Here the OED editor uses the "fishes" plural in the
context of multiple species.]
      1881 N.Y. Times in G. B. Goode Amer. Fishes (1888) ...  [An
author uses the multiple-species plural.  Many other authors do also,
but I see some do not.]
      1957 Encycl. Brit. II. 159/2 Most of these [temperate-water]
fishes..are not good candidates for domestic *fish tanks.  [Another authority?]


>On 8/1/2010 6:00 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>>>At 8/1/2010 05:42 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>>>On Sun, Aug 1, 2010 at 11:44 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>>>>"Young fishes just produced from the spawn." [In passing,
>>>>_shouldn't that be young *fish*_"?]
>>>Probably not. _Fishes_ was still the usual plural - at least in
>>>Saint Louis and points south - in both print, especially in the
>>>titles of plates (Fishes and Other Aquatic Life of The Gulf of Mexico),
>>But that's about multiple species. The book on reef fishes I read
>>some years ago said more than one, of one species, is "fish".
>>>speech by the time that, During The War, I had learned to read.
>>>Indeed, the plural _fish_ in place of _fishes_ still feels a
>>>little fishy to me.
>>>Cf. also the title of a popular song of the day, Three Little
>>>_Fishes_. Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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