E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Dead as a shotten herring. The shotten herring is one that has shot off or ejected its spawn. This fish dies the very moment it quits the water, from want of air. Indeed, all the herring tribe die very soon after they are taken from their native element. (See BATTLE.)
By gar de herring is no dead so as I vill kill him.Shakespeare: Merry Wives of Windsor, ii. 2.
Neither barret the better herring. Much of a muchness; not a pin to choose between you; six of one and half a dozen of the other. The herrings of both barrels are so much alike that there is no choice whatever. In Spanish: Qual mas qual menos, toda la lana es pelos.
Two feloes being like flagicious, and neither barell better herring, accused either other, the kyng Philippus sitting in judgement vpon them . condemned both the one and the other with banishmente.Erasmus: Apophthegmes.