Cutting the cod as a sign of power / Funny Spanish expressions related to fish

2 Sep 2014


pescado-vendido-iberica-languagesIt means that a situation or a subject has a clear and definite quality that does not allow doubt or that cannot be changed. There is no point in waiting for some decision as it has already been made.

This expression comes from the times when the fishmongers went to sell in the shops until all the fish have been sold out meaning that at around 12 o´clock (at midday) they were already closing since all the fish have been sold out by this time. An English expression that would be close in meaning is “cut and dried”.

There is a saying in Latin with a similar meaning “Alea jacta est” so “La suerte está echada” in Spanish or “The die is cast” in English.


– Aún no está todo el pescado vendido en ese asunto de la fusión de las empresas. Quizás aparezca una nueva oferta más interesante.  “It´s not yet cut and dried about the merge of the companies. Perhaps a more interesting new offer will appear”

– En la liga de fútbol ya está todo el pescado vendido: ganará el Barcelona. “In the Football League everything is clear, Barcelona is going to win”.

– Creo que el pescado está vendido: todos sabemos cuáles son las soluciones que hay sobre la mesa. “In my view, the situation is cut and dried: we are all familiar with the solutions that have been put forward”.




You can also say “el que reparte el bacalao

bacalao-iberica-languagesIt refers to the person in charge, or decision maker or someone who has the ability to take decisions. To someone who dominates the situation.

The origin of the term comes from the fish markets and grocer´s where cod had to be cut with a large, sharp knife. This task required special skills and therefore was reserved to the owner or the person in charge of the shop and could not be done by an apprentice. There was a clear distinction between those who were able and allowed to cut the cod and those who weren´t. Thus the activity of cutting the cod was associated with the idea of authority.


– Aquí el que corta el bacalao es Antonio, los demás no son nadie. “Here, the one who runs the show is Antonio, other people´s opinion does not matter”.

– En esta relación quien corta el bacalao es la chica. “The girl is the one who wears the trousers in this relationship”.

– En mi oficina el que reparte el bacalao es el hijo del jefe, no el encargado. “In my office the boss´ son has the final say, not the manager”.




pez gordo-iberica-languagesBeing an important person. It refers to the famous in many countries proverb saying that the big fish eat the little fish. As the big fish is associated with power, strength, and sometimes even ruthlessness.


– Mira, él es miembro del consejo de administración. Ten cuidado es un pez gordo. “Look, he is a member of the board. Beware, he´s a big shot”.

– Es un pez gordo del gobierno mexicano. “He’s a big shot in the Mexican government”.

– Intentaron secuestrar un pez gordo de la mafia. “They tried to kidnap some Mafia bigwig”.





Feeling comfortable in a place. Feeling secure and able to control the situation with ease.

Another similar expression in Spanish could be “estar como Pedro por su casa” o “estar en su salsa” It refers to the comparison of how a fish feels in water, in its natural environment, having freedom of movement. Some of the English expressions with a similar meaning are: to feel completely at home, to be in one´s element.


– Estará como pez en el agua. “He’ll fit in perfectly over there (like a duck to water)”

– Se divierte, está en su ambiente, como pez en el agua. “He’s having fun, he’s in the groove, he’s in the flow”

– Pedro es un excelente relaciones públicas. Se mueve como pez en el agua en los eventos corporativos con los peces gordos, aunque no los conozca de nada. “Pedro is excellent at being the responsible of public relations in the company. He moves like a fish in water in corporate events with the big shots, even though he does not know them at all”





It refers to a “big mouth”, a person who talks too much, or more than advisable. The literal translation would be: “The fish dies by its mouth”.

POR LA BOCA MURE EL PEZ-iberica-languagesIt is used when talking about a person who says things without knowing, speaks too much or says things that can cause him/her problems. The expression refers to fish that when seeing the worm on the hook, opens its mouth and pounces on for the worm, resulting in being “caught” by the fisherman. So the fish dies because it has opened its mouth when it should not have.


– Llevan toda la campaña electoral diciendo que van a ganar las elecciones, espero que no tengamos que aplicar el refrán de -por la boca muere el pez.

Some expressions with a similar meaning in English would be: “it’s best to keep one’s own counsel” or “silence is golden”, “You can’t unring the bell”, “Be careful with your words; you might have to eat them”



Funny Spanish expressions

Spanish expressions with “gato”