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That’ll be a kettle of worms

Kettle of Fish

Kettle of Fish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This gem is a mixture of “a fine kettle of fish” and “a can of worms”, both meaning to describe a difficult situation or problem.  My guess is that the speaker was also confusing worms with fish, as worms are bait for fish.  Similar malaphors at this site are “I’ve opened up a can of beans” (7/31/13 compliments of Denita) and “that’s a real ball of worms” (12/18/12, submitted by Paula Fow).  Thanks to Barry Eigen who sent this one in, and added that if the speaker had only said “a fine kettle of worms”, the malaphor would have been perfect.   Perfection is elusive.

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2 Comments on “That’ll be a kettle of worms”

  1. Clive George says:

    “Different kettle of fish”, not a “fine kettle of fish”. Kettle of worms can also be used deliberately – different kettle of fish doesn’t imply it’s difficult, can of worms does, combining them implies it’s both different and awful.

    • davemalaphor says:

      Clive,
      Could be “different kettle of fish” in the mix but I think “fine kettle” is more likely. A fine kettle of fish is defined as a difficult situation, and is more of a congruent conflation with can of worms. Kettle of worms is a malaphor (unless of course it is said deliberately, and then it would not. Malaphors are unintentional blends of idioms or phrases.


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