Dead as a shotten herring. The shotten herring is one that has
shot off or ejected its spawn. This fish dies the very moment it quits
the water, from want of air. Indeed, all the herring tribe die very
soon after they are taken from their native element. (See Battle.)
“By gar de herring is no dead so as I vill kill him.” —Shakespeare: Merry Wives of Windsor,
Neither barrel the better herring.
Much of a muchness; not a pin to choose between you; six of one and
half a dozen of the other. The herrings of both barrels are so much
alike that there is no choice whatever. In Spanish: “Qual mas qual
menos, toda la lana es pelos.”
“Two feloes being like flagicious, and neither barell better herring,
accused either other, the kyng Philippus ... sitting in judgment ypon
them ... condemned both the one and the other with banishmente.” —Erasmus: Apophthegmes.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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