The fish stinks from the head

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) uttered this on the Chris Hayes show (Ali Velshi filling in) the other night, referring to Trump.  She said, “The Italians have an expression ‘the fish stinks from the head’.”  Well, actually, the expression is “the fish rots from the head down”, meaning bad leaders damage an organization, and her comment mixes the idiom  “stink to high heaven”, meaning to be or seem extremely corrupt or disreputable.  Rotting sure gives off a stink so it is understandable that the speaker got confused.  Another big thank you to Frank King, our MSNBC Malaphor Reporter.

3 Comments on “The fish stinks from the head”

  1. Hi there, just a little thing: In German we actually DO say “The fish stinks from the head.” Maybe she mixed the countries up..? It means exactly the same thing as the Italian expression: If a system is bad, it’s probably because the people on top are bad.

  2. Raven says:

    The original Italian motto, “Il pesce puzza dalla testa”, literally translates as “The fish stinks from the head.” The customary English translation *explains* that as “The fish rots from the head down.” (Sen. Boxer was not confused.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.