"fish" (was Re: "moist")

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Nov 8 14:41:58 UTC 2011

I've never encountered "fish" as a synonym for "woman" in  general
use of any kind. And as a collective noun for "women," only in the
HDAS exx.

Just how common are these terms?


On Tue, Nov 8, 2011 at 9:27 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "fish" (was Re: "moist")
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Nov 8, 2011, at 8:05 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> "Garlic-eater" isn't really parallel because the garlic odor is
>> secondary to the foreign-food notion (cf. "frog-eater" and
>> "kraut-eater").
> Or, from the venerable HDAS, "fish-eater" for 'Roman Catholic'.  (Were Jews ever known as "pork-noneaters"?)
>> But even if odor is paramount, the alleged metaphor behind the
>> relevant sense of "fish" is far more oblique (even cryptic) than the
>> simple reductionism of "garlic-eater" (who in fact eat garlic).
>> It's the pat neo-Freudian cleverness and of the alleged "fish"
>> derivation that makes me suspicious. (ISTR an article - or a remark -
>> many years ago that claimed it proved the sick misogyny of gay men -
>> and not just the ones who used the word "fish." Was the etymologist
>> innocently projecting his own misogyny and homophobia?)
> Homophobia perhaps, but given the tendency for terms for women to be associated with negative under- or overtones (and Farmer and Henley's observation about the inevitability of the tendency for words for 'woman' or 'girl' to shade into terms for 'whore' or 'slut'), I'm not sure that reflections of misogyny need to be invented.
>> Not that I'm saying the derivation is impossible. But that level of
>> indirection would be extraordinary.
> Do we know for sure that the gay male use of "fish" as a slur for 'woman' antedates general (male?) use?  That's suggested in the HDAS entry, but I wonder, given the overall history of misogyniana.
> LH
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