This one is a hard one. We've all seen a sign saying "Gone Fishin'", but where and when did the phrase originate?
I'm not a fan of your typical catch and release sport fishing, in light of more recent science on the issue, but the phrase still captures something with value to many, even without the actual fishing.
Unlike some things, it doesn't seem to have much direct meaning beyond the obvious, or to be a reference to anything in particular. The speaker is simply absent because he is catching fish, or at least trying to.
But the exact phrasing and brevity seems to have persisted for almost 200 years, with Google Books returning a nonsensical anecdote about an office boy containing the phrase in "Very Funny, Too Funny, Just Funny Enough" from 1830.
It would seem that a search for the origin of the wording itself would be quite difficult, if there even is an origin, as opposed to many independent discoveries.
What may be more interesting is the more concrete meme of the classic wooden or metal sign bearing the words.
The phrase by itself is recognized by almost everyone as "A Thing", but in the context of a sign, it truly becomes a real meme, reposted thousands of times long before the internet was available.
And of course, the rustic artistry of the signs are a perfect example of 90s whimsical decoration, a tradition that has sadly been lost rather suddenly.
However, the origin of the sign is not obvious either, with so many variations out there, and so many movies and songs sharing the same title.
But perhaps we can learn something about it's popularity from the phrasing itself, despite how short, direct, and simple it seems to be.
The first thing we note is the brevity and casual tone. Whoever wrote this clearly makes no excuses for their absence. They likely did not even announce it to anyone beforehand.
They don't feel the need to explain, nor to spend much time in choosing their words, as a simple "Gone Fishin'" is enough.
From this, we might assume they left in a hurry, having decided they need a break from daily life, and no more preparation is needed other than to grab the ol' well-worn tackle box, a good rod (Not brought into the house before a trip, of course, as that might cause bad luck), and a good snack(Sans any bananas, of course, as this might also bring the same!).
The fishing was probably purely recreational. For all the fly-tying, worm-digging, debates over technique, expensive gear, and various superstitions, fishing has always been a relaxed sport, with many having no interest at all in competition.
But more than that, the past tense of the phrase tells us something more. When used for decoration, the signs are typically there all the time, regardless of the owner's location.
The person may not *physically* be fishing, but mentally, they are just waiting for the next time they are out on the lake, hiking a trail, or cracking a beer around the campfire. It's a statement of personality, and lifestyle beyond just the act of catching fish.
You might wish they would focus more on their work, but these days, a lot of work either gets done or it doesn't, since we have(for better or worse) long since moved on from the days of neat penmanship for every word of a business letter, and hand-painted dials on an average clock.
With so much done by technology, an excessive focus on your job with no regard for the context, and the real live human beings who must use your products, nor the feelings of the employees who must make them, seems just as big of a detriment to quality as a lack of focus.
Again, modern science shows that fish likely can feel pain, and often die after catch and release fishing, so I don't think I could ever advocate actually catching fish with no intent to eat them, or by people not willing to learn to properly dress them.
But still, the Gone Fishin' sign has an enduring, recognizable quality.
In this age of memes and parody, the positive aspects might well be captured by a similar sign, reading "Gone Hiking" or even "Gone Readin'", since many fishers seem to be primarily motivated by the time spent outdoors with family and friends.
So next time you scream at a computer, saying "Who designed this?! Don't they care at all?", perhaps you, and them, need to slip off at the next opportunity to something unrelated to commercial activity.
With the newer reports on the effects of hooks(And of pollutants such as methylmercury), some people may no longer want to actually catch a fish.
But still, the Gone Fishin' sign is a part of our history, and we can all understand the need for what it represents.