Ducks in a row (1938)

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Fri Sep 6 13:14:32 UTC 2002

In a message dated 9/6/02 3:34:42 AM, jan.ivarsson at TRANSEDIT.ST writes:

<< The expression is most likely derived from e.g. German "Gänsemarsch"

("goose march" in the sense of marching one behind the other in a row, not to
be confounded with "goose-step", "Stechschritt"). Or from the simple fact
that ducklings tend to follow their mother in a row.

Jan Ivarsson

jan.ivarsson at >>

What does "most likely" mean? That there is some empirical evidence for this,
or just that this is the best guess that someone could come up with? "To have
one's ducks in a row" means to be well organized with respect to some
particular project. Since there is no human agency involved in birds walking
single-file, this seems a bit of a stretch, especially if we are to assume
that English-speaking people got it from "Gänsemarsch" in the 1930s, when the
Nazi-goose connection seemed laughable (or worse) to most people.

Ducks have long been thought to be funny for some reason. There was a
comedian in the earlier part of the century whose opening gambit was, "Wanna
buy a duck." The expression "That's just ducky" in my experience literally
means 'That's just fine', but it is generally used ironically.

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