big fishMany idioms in English are related to the sea or ocean. The popular idiom “big fish in a small pond” means someone influential or important in their own circle of friends, workplace or society; that is, in a restricted context. It can also mean an overqualified person who only wants to stay in a limited area of expertise. Often, for example, the most popular kid at school may worry that she will feel like a nobody when she goes to university, that is, to a ‘bigger pond’. Or someone who is promoted in a small company may refuse to change to a larger firm or a more challenging job, where they might feel insecure and less important. The phrase is American in origin and was first used in Texan publication The Galveston Daily News in 1881. It more recently appears as the title of a contemporary poem Big Fish, Small Pond by American writer Laurence Overmire that criticises the voracious spirit of capitalism.

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