Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Episode 121: Plenty of Fish in the Sea Show Notes

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast

Episode 121: Plenty of Fish in the Sea

Record Date: August 15, 2021

Air Date: August 18, 2021



Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Dan Pugh


And I’m Shauna Harrison

Every week, we take an idiom, or other turn of phrase, and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

I remember when I was little seeing a cartoon… I want to say it was Looney Tunes…. Where a character watched a girl walk past him without paying him any attention - and his eyes had done the heart pop-out thing ah oooh ga! That whole bit - and his friend said something along the lines of don’t worry, there are plenty more fish in the sea. 


Collins Dictionary provides a definition as an informal phrase for 

there are plenty more fish in the sea as quote: 

“If you tell someone that there are plenty more fish in the sea, you are comforting them by saying that although their relationship with someone has failed, there are many other people they can have relationships with.”

-End quote 

According to Oxford English Dictionary, the first time a similar phrase was found in print was in the 16th century. 

In 1573, Gabriel Harvey in his work Schollers Loove writes, quote: 

“In the mayne sea theres good stoare of fishe, And in delicate gardens and in gourgeous bowers, Theres allwayes greate varietye of desirable flowers.”

-End quote

The intended purpose of this is to highlight the large availability of love, just as there is a large availability of flowers and fish. While this was written in 1573, this excerpt is part of the collection Letter-book of Gabriel Harvey that was published in 1884. I was unable to find an English copy from 1573 to get that additional context. 

From 1609, we have A Treasury, Or Storehouse of Similes - Both Pleasant, Delightful, and Profitable, for All Estates of Men in General : Newly Collected Into Heads and Commonplaces · Volume 2

By Robert Cawdry · 

This quote definitely establishes that the phrase is being used as an example for something that isn’t fish. 

The next piece I found was located using Google books. This excerpt is from Miscellaneous Plays Volume 2 with the date 1719 given. Unfortunately, there is little more information than this. The preview is not available, so I was only able to reference a short bit of the page. The original is held by Pennsylvania State University. This portion of the play reads, quote:

-End quote

In the May 28, 1845 edition of the Edgefield advertiser out of Edgefield, S.C., a poem was shared that had been pulled from the Philadelphia U.S. Gazette

a1893 the playwright Henry Churchill de Mille  in America's Lost Plays 

Credit is also given to David Belasco for the 1914 work Lord Chumley. Lord Chumley is a 1914 American short drama film directed by James Kirkwood. Prints of the film survive at the film archive of the Library of Congress.

Lord Chumley: But you're quite right, Lady Adeline; I have been crossed in love. 

Lady Adeline: Never mind, there are more fish in the sea.

Before we move on to our modern uses, we’d like to take a quick moment to say thank you to our sponsors. 

A Quick Thank You


This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons. 

Bunny Trails is and will always be free. But we are only able to make this content because of the awesome support of our Patrons like Pat Rowe and Mary Halsig-Lopez. 

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Modern Uses

From 1987, we have the song There Are Plenty Of Fish In the Sea by artists Leslie Guinn and Gilbert Kalish. They recorded the song, originally written by Stephen Foster in 1862, on period instruments at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.   

A lady tossed her curls at all who came to woo;

She laughed to scorn the vows

From hearts though false or true,

While merely she sang; and cared all day for naught

There are plenty of fish in the sea

As good as ever were caught

Upon their lightning wings the merry years did glide,

A careless life she led, and was not yet a bride;

Still as of old she sang

Though few to win her sought

There are plenty of fish in the sea

As good as ever were caught 

Plenty of Fish - Free Dating Site

In the media section of their website, it lists a “How it all started” section


Our story begins all the way back in the distant year of 2003 when we laid down our roots as one of the first free online dating sites in a world of subscriptions. As a scrappy start-up that took off in beautiful Vancouver, BC, we’ve never forgotten where we came from and why we’re here in the first place. We believe that building a community where people feel free to be themselves helps create the most meaningful connections. Every single day since we started this crazy journey, we’ve thought about nothing but helping people find their blanket thief, Ikea sherpa, personal spider hunter… you get the point.

End Quote 

The song Fixated by Moshë was released in May of 2020. Moshë is an Israeli singer-songwriter and a host of the 1st season of X Factor Israel. So, from the album Internal Monologue, here are some of the lyrics from the song Fixated, quote: 

I get that you don't wanna talk to me

I get that it can be embarrassing

When the one you want only wants to be your friend

But you don't have to go and talk your s***

Actin like you weren't tryna get with this

You know the kinda message that it sends

You don't have to be bitter

Don't you know there are plenty of fish in the sea

You don't have to be so fixated on me

Fixated on me

Fixated on me

-End quote 

An article on Fair Observer contains our phrase. Fair Observer has contributors from over 90 countries… according to their website, quote: 

“Fair Observer is an independent, nonprofit media organization that engages in citizen journalism and civic education.” 

- End quote

The article by Leah Garden was published August 03, 2021 and is titled There’s No Such Thing as Plenty of Fish in the Sea

Using a play on words with our phrase, the subtitle shares, quote: 

“Overfishing poses a threat not just to our diets, but to our ocean's ecosystems and productivity as a whole.”

-End quote. 

This is a common device used in media - excerpts and titles feature common phrases to make light of a situation or just to grab attention. 

Wedding in the water… 

Wrap up…

I love this phrase. It is positive… mostly. And it encourages people to get out and find new relationships after a loss. Heartbreak sucks, but it isn’t the end.  

Dan: That reminds me of a line from the first Men in Black movie where Tommy Lee Jones’ character is longingly admiring his old flame when Will Smith’s character walks in and says something to the effect of “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” and Jones’ snaps back something like, “oh yeah? Try it.”



That’s about all the time we have for today. If you have a pop culture reference we should have mentioned, we’d love to hear about it! Reach out to us on social media where we are @bunnytrailspod, or comment on our website - Of course, the best way to make sure we see your comment is to post it on the Patreon page! 


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Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. And until then remember... 


Words belong to their users.

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