Ever Wondered What’s The Origin Of ‘A fish rots from the head down’ Idiom?

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Ever Wondered What’s The Origin Of ‘A fish rots from the head down’ Idiom?

Ever Wondered What's The Origin Of 'A fish rots from the head down' Idiom?
Ever Wondered What’s The Origin Of ‘A fish rots from the head down’ Idiom? – image via thebusinesstherapist.com

Here’s one idiom we are hearing more often nowadays. And because of that, we’ve decided to look up its origins and share it with you, if you’re interested, of course.

Okay, biologically speaking, this idiom is simply not true. Like with any other living being, after death, a fish will start decomposing everywhere, at about the same rate. Only the stomach or a previous injury would probably begin to go first. Nevertheless, this saying was used in a metaphorical sense ever since it first appeared in the written record.

This happened in the early part of the 16th century when the famed Dutch humanist and scholar Desiderius Erasmus mentions it in one of his works. Who actually came up with it, however, is still a matter of debate, and many countries around the world want to lay claim to it, but with no real evidence to back it up. The most likely region it comes from, though, is around the Aegean Sea, so, it was either the Turks or the Greeks.

As the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire for 15 years, Sir James Porter mentions this proverb as being of Turkish origins, in his 1768 book entitled Observations on the religion, law, government, and manners of the Turks. Now, if they actually came up with it, or if they inherited it from their Greek neighbors, is of little consequence and it’s almost impossible to find out.

But we do know, however, that they meant it similarly to as we do today. If a servant was acting in an undisciplined manner, it implied that his master was too. Nowadays, this idiom is most often used for companies and governments as being mismanaged, or corrupt, but it can easily apply to individuals as well.