Home » Languages » English (Sr. Secondary) » Meaning of “Neither Fish, Flesh, Fowl nor Good Red Herring” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence.

Meaning of “Neither Fish, Flesh, Fowl nor Good Red Herring” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence.

Neither Fish, Flesh, Fowl nor Good Red Herring

“She is neither fish nor flesh nor good red herring.”

—JOHN HEYWOOD: Proverbs (1540).

The phrase may have been amended: the words “nor good red herring” being tacked on by someone who wished facetiously to emphasize it ; just as the word “fowl” has been added in our day. Its meaning is to describe certain types of men who pride themselves on their attitude of neutrality, in politics as in other matters of q polemical nature, which so often call for a definite expression of opinion. They like to be known as “independent.” Generally, they are men who know nothing, but who adopt this reserve in the belief that they will thereby create an impression of prudent wisdom. It is an Attitude of deception to cover a bankrupt • mind, and is in no wise heroic. There is a world of difference between an assertive, overbearing, headstrong, and even bigoted attitude and one of wise reticence. The former attitude has often shown itself in monarchs of a tyrannical disposition. Other monarchs have shown an equally stupid mien. The development of that nebulous thing called “constitutional monarchy” has helped to emphasize this in no small measure. The unhappy Louis XVI might have saved his crown and his head had he been less a nincompoop. “George, he a king!” the mother of George Ill of England was wont to say to her dull and obstinate son. Having no minds of their own, such men are at once the prey and docile tools of more able and dangerous men. They are neither one thing nor another, like those amorphous and invertebrate animals of the early Paleozoic period of the earth: neither plants, nor fish, nor flesh; nothing definite.

Dryden satirized this type in his Duke of Guise (1682):

Damned neuters in their middle way of steering,

Are neither fish nor flesh nor good red herring.


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