Fish or Fishes

Published 2018


Written by Dan

Sometimes we have those moments where we just don’t know which word to use.  Should I say fish or fishes and what about school or shoal?


Sleeping with the fishes or fish?

Today I was reminded of one of the most iconic quotes from the God Father.  It is one that has been sliced, diced, and incorrectly quoted for years.  Yep you guessed it the quote is as follows, “It’s to send you a message, it means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.”

In all truth, you are probably just familiar with the term as a phrase to sleep with the fishes.  Since the original line was uttered on screen in 1972 it has become a pop culture ideology that one would be killed and their body dumped in the sea or any other body of water; lake, river, pond, you get the idea.  It has popped up repetitively in movies, books, and even music.  Pretty morbid hugh!

Now, here is where my random thoughts come into play.  If fish is both the singular and the plural shouldn’t it be to sleep with the fish?  Yep me, the guy who fails grammar just as much as the next is questioning proper grammar.  If you don’t believe me put that last sentence into spell check and let me know if you see anything underlined squiggles, lol.

The answer though was really interesting.  Fish does indeed represent one fish, and if you are talking about a group of the same species they are also as a group referred to as fish.  So, if you go to the fish store and see a display tank full of just clowns and it is truly full of fish.  If you through a tang in there with them, now you have a tank of fishes.

Yep, if you have more than one type of fish; the proper term to use is fishes.  That said if Luca Brasi was thrown into the sea he would be sleeping with the fishes.


So is a shoal the same thing as a school?

This new information about fish and fishes sent me down the rabbit hole on other words I had seen in articles and books on fish and I just took them to mean the same thing.  Sometimes I read scientific terms and relate them to a more common lamens term and just roll with it. So I had to look up shoal, since I had to this point always interpreted it to be the same thing as a school of fish.

Is a shoal a school?  The answer is no, but it could be.  A shoal of fish is just a large group of fish congregating in close proximity.  They are not swimming or acting in unison but rather all just doing their own thing.  Once they start to all work together they become a school; like the moonfish in finding nemo, you know the ones that make all the cool shapes.

Are there any other aquarium terms like these you have run into? 

Let us know in the comments and maybe we can add them in as an addition to the article.




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