A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 12, 2013
“I don’t drink water because fish fuck in it”

The comic actor W. C. Fields (1880-1946) was known for drinking alcohol. He allegedly said that he didn’t drink water because “fish fuck in it.”

“I don’t drink water because fish fuck in it” was a 1969 graffito in Gleason’s tavern in New York City; the book Graffiti: Two Thousand Years of Wall Writing (1969) added, “Note: This is really the brain-child of W. C. Fields.” “"Water? Never touch the stuff. Fish procreate in it” was spoken by a W. C. Fields impersonator in Philadelphia in January 1972. Fields died in 1946 and citations from the 1940s or even 1950s are lacking. However, Halliwell’s Hundred: A filmgoer’s nostalgic choice of films from the golden age (1982) states that Fields said the line to a female reporter during a Hollywood lunch at Chasen’s.

A similar quote that’s often credited to Fields is “I never drink water; that is the stuff that rusts pipes.”


Wikiquote: Talk:W. C. Fields
I don’t drink water. Fish poop in it.
. Variant: I don’t drink water. Fish fuck in it.
. (Sometimes the second part of the statement is quoted as a response to a question as to why he didn’t drink water. “Water rusts pipes.” was also a reason he gave for not drinking it.)

Google Books
Graffiti:
Two Thousand Years of Wall Writing

By Robert George Reisner
Chicago, IL: H. Regnery Co.
1971
Pg. 144:
I don’t drink water because fish fuck in it.
(Note: This is really the brain-child of W. C. Fields.)
(Men’s room, Gleason’s tavern, New York City, 1969.)

31 January 1972, The Morning Herald-The Evening Standard (Uniontown, PA), “Birthday Is Marked,” pg. 9, col. 2:
PHILADELPHIA (AP) --
(...)
Paul Jablonski tied for first in the Fields impersonation contest, although he did not insult Philadelphia. “Water? Never touch the stuff. Fish procreate in it,” was one of his best lines.

Google Books
Halliwell’s Hundred:
A filmgoer’s nostalgic choice of films from the golden age

By Leslie Halliwell
New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons
1982
Pg. 231:
The story goes that a polite young lady journalist invited him to lunch at Chasen’s in hope of a story. Lunch in his case was a liquid affair, and left him uncommunicative. Noticing the passion with which he shooed away the hovering waiter with the ice water jug, she seized an opening. “Mr. Fields, could you tell me the reason for your well-known aversion to water?” “Delighted, my dear,” he replied with suddenly increased bonhomie. “Never touch the stuff—very unhealthy. Fish fuck in it.”

Google Books
The Merry Wives of Windsor
By Robert White
New York, NY: Harvester Wheatsheaf
1991
Pg. 69:
... (weirdly anticipating W. C. Field’s famous phrase about water—“Never touch the stuff—fish fuck in it").

Google Books
The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
2006
Pg. 257:
W. C. Fields (William Claude Dukenfield)
U.S. comedian, 1880-1946
(...)
“I don’t drink water because fish fuck in it.”
Quoted in Robert Reisner, Graffiti (1971)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Friday, July 12, 2013 • Permalink