A Fish By Any Other Name is Still a Bloody Fish

You’ve heard of A Fish Called Wanda (and, if you’re an insomniac like me, probably seen it a billion times thanks to the BBC’s cut-price ‘twilight programming’ too), but how about A Fish Called Colin?

Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s has sexed-up the humble pollack after carrying out consumer research that revealed many customers were too embarrassed to ask for it at the fish counter.

Now I can understand being embarrassed about asking for Anusol or Vagisil (especially at the fish counter) but pollack? Is it because it sounds a bit like ‘bollock’, or because it’s the kind of fish my Mum used to feed the cat when we couldn’t afford Whiskas?

At first I thought it was an April Fool’s joke; giving a fish a makeover and renaming it Colin, pronounced Co-lan, in order to persuade more people to buy it? Surely not.



Pollack: I shun thee at the fish counter

Pollack: I shun thee at the fish counter

Co-lan sounds far too similar to colon, the storage tube for our ‘solid waste’. You might as well just call it Arse Tube Fish and be done with it.

Then again, I suppose the more literary fish buyers amongst us can amuse themselves by asking for a semi-colin if they want only half a fish.

Sainsbury’s hope the makeover will highlight sustainable sourcing and protect dwindling fish stocks – that’s the fish in the sea, not Oxo cubes – while reminding customers that there’s more to the fish counter than cod and haddock.


Colin: Fancy coming round to my place for dinner?

Colin: Fancy coming round to my place for dinner?

Personally, I have been protecting dwindling fish stocks for decades, on the basis that I’d rather lick pollution-flecked nettles on a motorway verge than eat a fish.

Although it seems impossible to believe now, there was once a time when I ate meat with incredible, carnivorous enthusiasm.

As a young flesh eater I ate the very meatiest of meat: really well-hung pheasant – I refer to the technique of preserving game, not the pheasant’s phallus  – rabbit, veal and oxtail.

The meatier it was, the more I liked it.

Even at my bloodiest, however, I couldn’t be persuaded to willingly eat a fish, unless it was heavily coated in orange breadcrumbs, endorsed by a kindly sea captain and rendered tasteless thanks to copious quantities of ketchup.

This was, in part, due to my mother’s insistence on serving some fish whole, their heads intact and their opaque, baked eyes staring accusingly up at me from my plate. And the bones, dear God the bones: it was like eating a box of haunted matches.

Giving up eating meat was a small price to pay for knowing I’d never have to eat fish again; in fact the moment I grasped the concept of vegetarianism (“you mean they never have to eat tuna? Sign me up!”) I became one.

My family have no such qualms, even though – up until recently when ‘Survivor’ turned up his tiny fins and was despatched to heaven via the toilet – we actually owned fish as pets.

I never understood their logic. We have cats too, but if I’d tried to serve them a roasted one of those for dinner, I feel confident there would have been protests. Bloody hypocrites.

Time alone will tell whether the Fish Formerly Known As Pollack, complete with its hilarious ‘Jackson Pollock’ inspired packaging, will enjoy renewed popularity, or indeed some form of popularity whatsoever, with its new sexy moniker.

It reminds me of that tiresome Norwich Union advertisement in which fabulously wealthy celebrities (Bruce ‘Walter’ Willis, Alice ‘Vincent Furnier’ Cooper, Ringo ‘Richard Starkey’ Starr etc etc) took the Aviva dollar to ask the public if they’d have been quite so famous if they’d kept the names they were given at birth.

With this in mind, I suggest Sainbury’s commissions its own advertisements: “Ask yourself this: would Pollack Firth have gotten to play Mr Darcy?”

**** An apology. I know the above is horribly Anglicised, and if you’re from across the Pond/continent some of it may mean nothing. Then again, most of what I write means nothing, so perhaps you won’t have noticed. Do you lot have pollack? It’s a kind of really shit fish, if you hadn’t worked that out already. And you know who Colin Firth is, right? He’s a posh actor, the kind of man that makes people who aren’t British think we’re all really self-effacing and charming and go around apologising all the time. Which is what I’m doing right now. More to the point, this column is tomorrow’s newspaper column, so I’m short-changing you there, too. I’m off to don my hair shirt in penitence. ****


26 Responses to “A Fish By Any Other Name is Still a Bloody Fish”

  1. 1 delicate flower
    April 19, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Yes to Fish Called Wanda.. showed my son, as a little boy, the part when Michael Palin has the french fries stuck up his nose. I thought it hilarous, my son was upset!?
    Yes to Colin Firth, though the image of his stuck-up role in Bridget Jones’s Diary is the first role that comes to mind. I have seen his Austen role as well.
    Not sure if I’ve ever eaten Pollack but believe me I’ll probably laugh should I ever encounter it now.. Colin.. wonderful.

    I love your blog and your sense of humor. And,I got most of it, w/o translation. Thank you..
    delicate flower..

  2. April 19, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    I ask you, WIB, have you tried a really good white fish like Swordfish or Orange Roughy? How about salmon fillet? Fish is tricky, you have to remove the bones for sure, and it has to be cooked just right. But it’s brain food, girl! However, your brain seems to be working quite nicely without it, so I’m thinking you’re getting some pretty good nutrients out of those pollution flecked nettles on the motorway verge… and your garden perhaps? Looking forward to more pics of anatomically suggestive veggies…

  3. April 19, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Welcome Delicate Flower and thank you for your kind words. It’s always nice to know that I’m making Transatlantic sense. Steer clear of all those pollacks and head back over soon.

    Iwritegirl, you are preaching to the perverted. I will not touch a fish, especially if it is holding a sword. On the subject of veggies, though, I am considering marking a few more ‘special’ fruit and veg days. Amusing turnips seem to be a-plenty. Nice to see you. Much love.

  4. April 19, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    They should have called it “Pussy”. If housewives can get their husbands to acquire a taste for that, a lot of marriages might be saved.

    **** Is the phrase “Arse Tube Fish” going to appear in your newspaper column? That would be a real breakthrough for tell-it-like-it-is journalism. You’re welcome to publish my comment as well. *****

  5. April 19, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Greetings GB, nice to see you.
    Yes, I can confirm that ‘arse tube fish’ has made it in. I had to insert an asterisk into bollock, though. If that doesn’t make my male readers wince, I don’t know what will (actually, I do. But this is a family blog, so I will refrain from explanation).
    I push the envelope, me. Once I almost had a ‘shit’ in the paper. God, I’ve been waiting for ages to use that gag.

  6. April 19, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    As someone from across the pond, I can say that we (women, at least) definitely know who Colin Firth is. And some of us have considered emigrating because of him.

    As another vegetarian (not a pescatarian!), love the cat comparison. Here’s a tidbit you may want to know about: http://www.peta.org/sea_kittens/

  7. April 19, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Afternoon, Pamela. Thanks for the link – I am thinking like Peta! It’s only a matter of time before I start throwing red paint at supermodels (not for any reason, just because it’d be fun).
    Thanks for dropping in and for the poems x

  8. April 19, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    So now we know why you are sick all of the time. Not enough meat in you! (Not that I am encouraging you to have a Pollack in you. An Irishman maybe but definitely not a Pollack).

  9. April 19, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    WIB if you are thinking like PETA then maybe you should start a program where you are the biggest eutheniser(sp?) of unwanted fish.

  10. April 19, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    We have Shit Fish over here. It’s considered a delicacy. The key is knowing how to prepare it. Here’s a recipe I highly recommend.

    Sautéed Shit Fish with Odd Crustaceans A La Provencale

    1 Shit fish (preferably dead)
    2 Onions
    1 tbs Capers
    3 tsp olive oil
    1 tsp muscatel
    1 Wooden Stick
    Various washed up odd crustaceans

    Get shit fish. Using wooden stick, smack repeatedly over the head. Remove tail, cover in oil and freeze. Beat shit fish and other ingredients in a bowl. Cook for 2 ½ hours over open garbage can flame or until shit fish is tender. Sprinkle with capers and reinsert frozen tail up shit fish’s ass. Sprinkle on crustaceans. Eat it like it was a giant, slimy shish kabob. Serve with a good red Bordeaux or homemade grain alcohol

  11. April 19, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Why would anyone want to taste a Colin – particularly when it’s pronounced colon?

    Why. I ask?

    Why not give fish code numbers instead of names?

    Fish number 0001, for instance.
    That could be a , say, salmon.

    Or use hand measurements to describe fish – just like the way fishermen do with their wonderful tales?

    “i’ll have one this size”, you’d say to the fish counter person while gesturing with your hands outstretched.

    Could work.

  12. April 19, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    Its pretty sad if all the marketing geniuses and their silly focus groups can only come with Co-Lan. All I can say, and I am channeling the late Bill Hicks here, is “if you work in marketing or sales, then please, kill yourself now.”

  13. April 19, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Ah, Tannerleah, I can always depend on you to lower the tone, even when my own tone is dragging on the floor. I’ve had the Irishman. Never a Colin, though. Although there was once an incident in a bedroom with a BBC trainee…but technically I don’t think that one counted. Not on the official list, anyway.
    Bearman – I let my legendarily poor filtration system on my fish tank do that job for me.
    Alantru – how delightful! A recipe! I am more likely to eat a shit fish than I am a pollack/Colin.
    Jesus Budda – I like it. What number would Colin be? 666? 911? 999?

  14. April 19, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    FJ – amen. I work with that lot. A right bunch of Col-ans.

  15. 15 pinnythewu
    April 20, 2009 at 9:15 am

    While I’m not from the “motherland” I understood every word. And I’m glad we don’t get Ass-tube-fish here.

  16. 16 okathleen
    April 20, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Oh to be a fly on the wall at the Sainsbury’s brainstorming…

    It’s so bloody sexist as well, is every Sainsbury’s pollack male?

    What was wrong with Sam or Lesley?


  17. April 22, 2009 at 3:34 am

    Inspired by your ringing product endorsement, I tried two Colins last night – our local Tesco anxious to clear their shelves of the bloody stuff had a special offer on – two Colins (in batter) for the princely sum of £1.

    An offer the Scot in me could not pass by !!!

    It was the 1st time I had tasted a Colin. These particular two were apparently from Alaska. I gingerly wrapped my mouth round the 1st Colin, rolling my tongue round it, savouring the taste, and the texture. It was not unpleasant but left me strangely disappointed.

    The 2nd Colin was better. I was experienced now and knew what I wanted and exactly how to get it. A bit of foreplay was needed to get my juices flowing !!!

    Liberally dousing the 2nd Colin with vinegar, followed by a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, and finishing off with a large dollop of Thai Chilli and lemongrass sauce I was already salivating as I prepared to insert the 2nd Colin in my mouth . . .

  18. April 22, 2009 at 5:58 am


    Our local paper would never (ever) dare feature the words ‘arse tube fish’.

    Norfolk must indeed be the world centre of journalistic liberalism.

  19. April 23, 2009 at 2:26 am

    I could have sworn I commented on this post . . .

    Has anyone seen my medicines?

  20. April 23, 2009 at 9:04 am

    this story reminds me of the strangely named “Reject Fish Shop” that used to trade on Bondi Road. Seriously – that was its name. Unfortunately I never quite mustered up the courage to eat there……

  21. April 23, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    a wise decision, me thinks !

  22. 22 Dee
    April 25, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Dear WIB,

    Where are you? No new blog since 6 days, missing you lady…


  23. April 25, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    I have been away too long, for which I apologise.
    Blame the task-masters who employ me. Blame them, and then force them to reinstate the freelance cover that used to mean I could actually do normal things, like eat and sleep.
    But fear not. I’m on the case. And I’ll post something brand new so that you get the bonus of my fantastic column on Monday, too.
    Thanks for your comments. Forgive me my absence.

  24. April 25, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    I wonder if I can get some arse-tube fish sticks.

  25. April 25, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    You had to take it that step further, George, didn’t you? Bad boy.

  26. 26 sheemi
    April 29, 2009 at 7:28 pm


    Do you think Colin the fish comes with a written apology on the packaging? What with him being british an’ all? I’m suprised they didn’t re-name him ‘Pucker all right mate’ as Sainsburys seem to be obsessed with Jamie Oliver. I mean, think of how much revenue that would of brought in!

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