When you think of a fish being out of water, certain images will come to your mind; usually involving an angry fish flopping around trying not to die. Thus; if a person is like “a fish out of water”, are they flailing around trying not to die? Where did this saying come from and how did it become such a commonly used metaphor?
The metaphor refers to someone that doesn’t quite fit into a certain situation. While it is still in use, the saying, “a fish out of water” dates back to the 13th century.
The first use of this phrase comes from the year 1483 written by poet Geoffrey Chaucer where it states
“…a huge man, uncouth; a master of vessel and knew all the ports; not ride well; like a fish out of water
as sat on his horse.”
Other known uses of this saying come from Samuel Purchas’ Pilgrimage in 1613 where it reads, “The Arabians out of the deserts are as Fishes out of the Water.”
Although the wording is slightly different, the sentiment remains the same hundreds of years in the future. So next time you are called “a fish out of water” accept it as a compliment; weird people are generally cooler anyway.