neither fish nor fowl



  • This expression appears to have acquired its current, idiomatic usage in the 19th century.


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neither fish nor fowl

  1. (idiomatic) Something or someone which is not easily categorized; something or someone that does not rightly belong or fit well in a given group or situation.
    • 1885, Charlotte M. Yonge, The Two Sides of the Shield, ch. 18:
      I know I should hate being there without you; I'm a great old thing, as Jasper says, neither fish nor fowl, you know, not come out, and not a little girl in the schoolroom, and it would be very horrid going to a grand place like that on one's own account.
    • 1919, E. Phillips Oppenheim The Box with Broken Seals, ch. 7:
      "To tell you the truth," he confided, "I am a little tired of my job. Neither fish nor fowl, don't you know."
    • 1993, Jon Pareles, "Arts: Playing in Reunion, Cream Is the Finale Of Rock Ceremonies," New York Times (retrieved 12 Oct 2012):
      Ms. James, who has been a blues, rhythm-and-blues, funk and soul singer, said she no longer had to worry about being "neither fish nor fowl."
    • 2008 Dec. 30, Bob Sommer, "The Education of David Frost," (retrieved 12 Oct 2012):

Usage notesEdit

In the 17th and 18th centuries it was used primarily literally


See alsoEdit