How fishing tackle influenced the English language

Did you know fish can speak English?

Did you know that fish can speak English?

Of course the above statement isn’t true, but when writing an article, it is essential to start with what is known as the ‘hook’ – in other words, to grab the reader’s attention.

Our language is peppered with expressions that have their origins in the world of fishing. Here are a few of them – and as always, if you can think of others that we’ve missed, we’d be delighted if you’d…..’drop us a line’.

Taking the bait

Lure (Germanic. Luder: bait)

You might have been lured into trouble at some point, but a lure is first and foremost a means of disguising a hook to look or move like something the unsuspecting prey might like — a kind of fishy femme fatale.




A selection of Gaffs
Photo by Jean-Louis Vandevivere

Gaff (Middle Eng. Gaf: hook. Related to Gaffe)
In fish-world, the Grim Reaper’s scythe is the gaff. A gaff hook is used to land big fish. Once securely gaffed it cannot escape – it’s on a one way trip to the dinner table. This is where the word gaffe comes from: to make a verbal blunder.





Tackle this
Photo by litlg

Tackle (Germanic. Takel)

Didn’t see that one coming did you! Originating from ship’s tackle, fishing tackle is the equipment needed for this particular hobby or sport. And has evolved into an active version of itself: to tackle, make a tackle.




Photo by Kenneth Lu

Hook, line and sinker
First up in our idiom section is the common phrase used when somebody accepts something completely. Though in fishing terms it means that a fish is well and truly caught as not only has it taken the hook, it’s so far up the line that it’s swallowed the sinker (used to weigh down the line).



Cast the net
Photo by Angie Shyrigh

Cast the net

Cast the net is part and parcel of fishing and has been adopted into everyday usage as an opportunist phrase meaning to send out a message in the hope something will come back.





Looking for something?
Photo by James Morton


Trawler nets sweep vast areas of the ocean for fish generally collecting everything in     their path. This term is now used when searching hard for something and was used a lot by Sherlock Holmes.





So pleased to 'eat' you...

Plenty more fish in the sea

There’s a whole ocean of proverbs out there and our first is the favourite of the singles. Plenty more fish in the sea is obviously a fishing term which means if you’ve had your heart broken by a pretty fish, then don’t fear the ocean is full of loads more heart-breakers.




The price of fish
Photo by BobTurner

The price of fish
Cakes are lovely and spongy …
Usually if the preceding sentence had just been dropped into an unrelated conversation then somebody might reply with the classic line, “What’s that got to do with the price of fish?”
And on that note, the fishing dictionary is now closed for badminton practice.

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