Fish story is an idiom that has been in use at least since the 1800s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom fish story, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.
A fish story is an exaggerated, unbelievable story. A fish story is not true. Often, it is a humorous or over-the-top tale told for entertainment, but sometimes it is the exaggerated story told by someone who is trying to trick the listener or someone who is mentally ill. The idiom fish story is an American term that came into use in the early 1800s, based on the tendency for a fisherman to exaggerate the size of the fish that he caught, or the fish that he almost caught.
“Somebody who’s telling a fish story, when you actually catch them in the lies, you don’t know how they’re going to react.” (The Naples Daily News)
“I know there is a big old cash register down there about two feet wide that is mine,” said Curtis holding out his hands like someone telling a fish story. (The Okanogan Valley Gazette Tribune)
Bass Pro Shops and city officials weren’t telling a fish story all those years when they promised a whopper of a tourist attraction on the Memphis riverfront. (The Memphis Commercial Appeal)
“Charlie’s personality was captivating whether he was talking business or telling a fish story, and he definitely will be missed.” (Musky Hunter Magazine)