Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Nov 7 15:07:55 UTC 2011

On Nov 7, 2011, at 6:45 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> Well, Civil War rookies were widely known as "fresh fish," not because
> of any  moisture but because they were brand-new and stupid.
> The prison use is almost as old.

I've never spent much time in prison, but at the poker table a fish is a weak player, often but not always brand-new, but definitely stupid (at poker, if not life).  I always assumed the allusion was to being suckers--falling for the dissembling of other players or the temptation to overrate one's own hand or ability to play it.  But might it instead derive from the prison usage?  (I can't check, since my HDAS is home and I'm not.)

> As a term for women it is considerably more recent. How certain are we
> of the latterly alleged origin of that usage?
> JL

> On Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 2:01 AM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>> Subject:      Re: "moist"
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> On Sun, Nov 6, 2011 at 9:01 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
>>> Pejoratively, women are "fish"
>> As are newcomers to prison, whether male or female. as more likely to
>> become victims victims of intrasexual prison rape than
>> more-experienced inmates.
>> --
>> -Wilson
>> -----
>> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
>> to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
>> -Mark Twain
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
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