Where does plenty of fish come from?
According to the Dictionary of Proverbs, there's plenty of fish in the sea can be found as early as 1573 in the form in the main sea, there's a good store of fish. (Still doesn't help.)
Often meant to encourage someone who's just been dumped or needs to get back in the dating scene, the proverb likens the dating field to the sea, brimming with endless fish, or potential, lasting partners that haven't been caught yet. It can also suggest that someone's ex wasn't so special or unique. (Trust us, they weren't.)
By 1862, the proverb had morphed into its modern form and was established enough to inspire a classic early American popular song from Stephen Foster, "There Are Plenty of Fish in the Sea":
If that's not your jam (Google it), how about Harry Connick Jr.? In "Easy for You to Say," he croons: "You say there are plenty of fish in the deep blue sea / That's easy for you to say." Or, Valerie June? In her 2013 "Somebody to Love," she riffs on the metaphor: "Did they tell you, there are / Plenty of fish in the sea / But you're drowning and cold / And you're feeling empty."
And, with this saying, it's all about the comeback.
When I hear someone say 'there are plenty of fish in sea' ... I want to respond with 'You know there are sharks in the sea too, right?' 😋
— Drew Pearson (@Drewbert4) December 21, 2016
In 2003, a Vancouver-based dating site alluded to the saying for its free dating website, Plenty of Fish, which, as of 2018, claims to be the largest of its kind with over 150-million registered users across the globe. Users commonly refer to it as POF. For many, the site and app has a reputation for being a "hookup" service and being abused for violent sexual crimes.
Who uses plenty of fish?
In everyday speech, people may kindly advise there are plenty of fish in the sea—or if they care even less about your breakup: Welp, there's plenty of fish!—to a friend, family member, or even themselves if going through a breakup or trying to get excited about dating.
As noted though, the saying has become a cliché, leading to all sorts of fish- and ocean-based jokes.
Yes, there are plenty of fish in the sea — but I stopped fishing after I found you.
— Betsin-artparasites (@BetsinsOfficial) December 29, 2016
Plenty of fish in the sea.. but i want a dolphin 😂
— 49™ (@419GB) December 17, 2016
When my ex and I broke up, my mom consoled me, saying, "There are plenty of fish in the sea."
So now I'm dating a fish.
— Andrew Eisen (@AndrewEisen) December 10, 2016
When plenty of fish is not linked to the common saying, it's probably referencing the popular dating site, Plenty of Fish.
I had a date lastnight with someone from PlentyOfFish who described themself as a 'fox'. Turns out she's just ginger and eats from bins.
— Jay Tuvz (@JayTuvz) December 19, 2016
Lastly, many people pun on plenty of fish when talking or writing about fishing, water sports, and fish population levels. Nice ...
There *were* plenty of fish in the sea. pic.twitter.com/wvxlLUE3RG
— Chubbies (@Chubbies) November 30, 2017
There are plenty of fish in the sea. Unfortunately, I live in the desert.
@FrenchStallion, November, 2016
Time to Get Real. There Aren’t Plenty of Fish in the Sea and It’s Our Fault
Aisling Maria Cronin, One Green Planet (headline), May, 2017
Who's this putting me on plenty of fish!!!!!! Let me know if he's successful maybe I can take some tips from him! 🙈
@AirForce_Carl, December, 2016