kettle of fish

noun
1.
an awkward, difficult, or bad situation; muddle; mess: He's managed to get himself into a fine kettle of fish!
2.
a state of affairs; a matter under consideration: The new proposal is quite a different kettle of fish from the last one.

Origin:
1735–45

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
kettle of fish
 
n
1.  a situation; state of affairs (often used ironically in the phrase a pretty or fine kettle of fish)
2.  case; matter for consideration: that's quite a different kettle of fish

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

kettle of fish

  1. Also, a fine or pretty kettle of fish. An unpleasant or messy predicament, as in They haven't spoken in years, and they're assigned to adjoining seatsthat's a fine kettle of fish. This term alludes to the Scottish riverside picnic called kettle of fish, where freshly caught salmon were boiled and eaten out of hand. [Early 1700s]

  2. a different or another kettle of fish. A very different matter or issue, not necessarily a bad one. For example, They're paying for the meal? That's a different kettle of fish. [First half of 1900s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
And a pretty kettle of fish they make of it between them.
The origins of life are an entirely different kettle of fish.
Getting those molecules to stick only to tumour cells, though, is a different
  kettle of fish.
Speculators, despite their bad name, are a different and far healthier kettle
  of fish.
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