From the Hohlspiegel column of Der Spiegel, which is intended for funny errors from other sources:

Aus der Bild:

"Die richtig dicken Fische kommen leider oft ungeschoren davon."

It seems to mean that the big fish often escape unscathed. But where is the humor? Does it lie in the (over-)concern that fish escape unscathed, in effect treating them like people?

  • You are right, it means the big fish often escape unscathed.. Ungeschoren comes from scheren (to crop). So maybe that's the joke. To crop a fish like a sheep is strange.
    – knut
    Oct 11, 2014 at 21:25
  • 1
    Fish don't have hair - they cannot be sheared. I think that's the funny part; because the phrase evokes an image of hairy fish in my head.;-)
    – Chris
    Oct 11, 2014 at 21:45
  • 1
    Nice example of a Katachrese - Mis-use of images that don't fit. Can be meant in a humorous way, but could just as well be clumsy usage of language.
    – tofro
    Jun 12, 2016 at 9:27

2 Answers 2


I wouldn't think this sentence funny. I would consider it as bad style to mix imagines that don't fit together. Sheep are shorn for their wool and we have the saying "ungeschoren davonkommen" meaning to get away without punishment. But together with fish "ungeschoren" is a silly image as fish have no wool that can be shorn off.

By the way, to shear has the forms shear/sheared/shorn or shear/sheared/sheared. And the pronunciation of shear is as in fear, not as in bear.


This is a blending of two idiomatic expressions:

  • ein dicker Fisch “a big fish” → a serious offender
  • ungeschoren davonkommen “get away unshorn” → get away with it; get away unscathed

The latter one comes from sheep shearing, which would be strange when applied to fish.

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