Created on 22 May 2019
A different kettle of fish
To mean/refer to a different thing altogether; an alternative

A different kettle of fish

The idiom was commonly used in Scotland and the North of England in the latter part of the 19th century, where fish kettles were (and still are!) quite common. A fish kettle was not a kettle which is the same as a kettle used to make tea, but a kind of large saucepan used to boil different foods, often fish.

One early use of the idiom is from a newspaper called the Carlisle Debate in 1989, where when describing a parliamentary debate on the Irish Question, it said: ‘To enable them to manage their own affairs will not satisfy Irishmen. What they want is a very different kettle of fish.’

Riding a bike in London is a different kettle of fish from riding a bike in Amsterdam.

I had studied English in my home country, but studying at Bloomsbury International is a totally different kettle of fish!

‘Do you like your classmates?’
‘Well I like most of them. We get on really well, but there’s one who is a completely different kettle of fish.’

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