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A fish out of water

刊登日期: 2019.03.22
作者: Grace Tse  

On the 22nd of March, the United Nations (UN) celebrated the annual World Water Day. This year, the UN focuses on tackling the water crisis among people who have been marginalised so that no one is left without safe water. 

Scientists say that water is the most important substance for life, not only for human beings but also for plants and animals. So, what would happen to a fish which is out of water? Fish need water more than we do because they live in the sea. If a fish is left on land, its gills will collapse and not be able to absorb oxygen. Feeling suffocated, the fish flaps and dies. 

The expression “a fish out of water” is used figuratively to describe a person who is uncomfortable in an unfamiliar situation. 

Johnny felt like a fish out of water(如魚離水;渾身不自在)at his new school. 

The idea of this simile is first found in “The Canterbury Tales” (《坎特伯雷故事集》)written by a British poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, in the 15th century. 

“Nor that a monk, when he is cloisterless,Is like unto a fish that’s waterless;” 

In the story, Chaucer describes that the monk, one of the thirty pilgrims travelling to Canterbury, is rebellious. Thus, Chaucer does not think that when the monk lives outside the monastery, he is like a fish out of water. 

Later, the current wording of the expression appeared in a work written by a British cleric, Samuel Purchas, in 1613. 

“The Arabians out of the deserts are as fishes out of the water.”  

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