seventy-four, noun

Forms:
Also 74.
Origin:
See quotation 1902.
Either of two species of seabream of the Sparidae: a. Polysteganus undulosus, a large, colourful fish with blue, red, and golden-yellow stripes along its body; roman sense 1 c. b. The red steenbras (see steenbras sense b), Petrus rupestris. Also attributive.
Note:
In Smith and Heemstra’s Smiths' Sea Fishes (1986), the name ‘seventy-four’ is used for Polysteganus undulosus.
1861 A Lady Life at Cape (1963) 45A most delicate fish, called the ‘seventy four’ by some, and the ‘Roman’ by others,..which undoubtedly was as good as the best cod or turbot out of England.
1875 J.P.C. in Cape Monthly Mag. XI. July 25Day by day I..tasted all the edible treasures extracted from the depths of the seas, such as ‘seventy-fours.’
1902 J.D.F. Gilchrist in Trans. of S. Afr. Philological Soc. XI. iv. 221 (Pettman)The Seventy-four is charactised [sic] by several very distinct bright blue bands running along the body, not unlike the rows of guns of an ancient man-of-war, one carrying seventy-four guns being considered a well-equipped vessel in those days.
1913 C. Pettman Africanderisms 438Seventy-four, Dentex rupestris...A delicious table-fish; it has received its name, so tradition says, ‘from its having been caught from a ship of the line of that number of guns, on dropping anchor in Simon’s Bay’.
1923 S. Afr.: Land of Outdoor Life (S.A.R. & H.) 249The tugs go further afield to the ‘seventy-four’ grounds...The seventy four averages about 9 lbs, and is a strong fighter.
1949 J.L.B. Smith Sea Fishes of Sn Afr. 278Polysteganus undulosus (Regan) (Dentex undulosus.) Seventy Four...Attains at least 40 ins. Found only in South Africa, from the Cape to Delagoa Bay, in deep water. At one time abundant..this elegant fish has become scarce in recent years. The flesh is esteemed.
1955 C. Horne Fisherman’s Eldorado 89The seventy-four, one of the very few South African fish with only one common name, is reputed by some to derive its name from the lines on its body, which are said to resemble rows of gun ports; by others to be named because the fish was first caught from a seventy-four gun warship.
1970 Daily News 12 JulyWinter shoals of ‘seventy-four’ have now moved into Natal waters, commercial skippers making good hauls of these much prized table fish.
1980 Daily Dispatch 20 Aug. 8Local ski-boats have had a rather lean time this past week...One of the better catches made at the weekend was 100 kg of 74.
1988 A. Bowmaker in Stanger Mail 9 Dec. 8The delicious 74, once the staple fish of the South African hotel trade, has to all intents and purposes disappeared.
1990 D. Jones in Sunday Times 18 Nov. 7Another endangered species, called seventy-four, is also being fished in vast quantities by his company.
Polysteganus undulosus, a large, colourful fish with blue, red, and golden-yellow stripes along its body; roman1 c.
The red steenbrassteenbrasb, Petrus rupestris. Also attributive.

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18611990