George Eliot’s Adam Bede has two characters who use language vibrantly and robustly, one of whom is the proud and capable farmer’s wife, Mrs Poyser.  Here is what she has to say of men who sit in the pub boozing: as wise as cod fish with red faces.

I’ve never seen a cod with a red face, but I’ve never seen a boozing cod either.

And I know the picture of the fish isn’t a cod, but it was the red faced fish I went for!

Compare this with the earlier more convincing simile for wisdom: as wise as a dwarf.

‘… looking as wise as a lot o’ cod-fish wi’ red faces’.

Source: George Eliot, Adam Bede (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985 (1859)), p. 388

Photo credit: jamie_nakamura at


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