A different kettle of fsh?
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Before we can get to grips with 'a different kettle of fsh' we need to know what 'a kettle of fsh' is when it isn't different.
Of course a fsh kettle isn't the kind of kettle you would use to make tea, it's just a fsh saucepan - usually one large enough for a whole fish.
The expression 'a kettle of fsh' means 'a mess'/'a muddle' and is often extended to 'a pretty/nice kettle of fsh'.
'A different kettle of fsh', and I have to say it, is a different kettle of fsh. It means 'something different from the thing before'. For example, we might offer to have a friend stay for a few days but remark that a stay of a few months would be a different kettle of fsh.
The expression dates from the late 19th century and was found most commonly in Scotland and the north of England (where fsh kettles were and still are quite commonplace). This early citation comes from a report of a parliamentary debate on the Irish question, in the Carlisle Patriot newspaper, June 1889:
"To enable them to manage their own local affairs will not satisfy Irishmen. What they want is a very different kettle of fsh."