Where does “As Easy as Shooting Fish In a Barrel” Originate From?

Since we opened general questions feature to the public, people have been sending us crazy questions that have to do with scienceand technology, and really just about anything. We take the questions that we get and try to pick the most interesting questions out of the bunch.

You have questions? Let us know! and We’ll try to answer them to the best of our ability.

This week’s question comes from Samantha D. she Asked:

I was watching this video, and I’m wondering: Where does the saying, shooting fish in a barrel come from?

The answer:

Shooting fish in a barrel is an idiom, describing an effortless or simple action, with guaranteed success. People claim that It originated from when two men were having a shooting contest. They each said what each other had to shoot. Number 1 said to shoot a bird in a tree and Number 2 said to shoot a fish that was located in a barrel- thinking that it would be very hard. According to the story- shooting fish in a barrel was incredibly easy! This was because the vibration of the water ,once it was shot ,was enough to kill the fish in it!

While that story does make some sort of sense, the reason that I think makes more sense comes from the way people stored fish in old days. Prior to the days of refrigeration, fish were packed and stored in large barrels. These barrels would be packed to the rim full of fish and then they would be iced to keep fresh. Because the fish were packed to the top, any shot that entered the barrel would be guaranteed to hit at least one of them.

This being the case, nothing would be easier than shooting fish in a barrel.