duck face in 1904

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 29 00:42:56 UTC 2013

Now that "selfie" has breached the lexicographical barriers "duckface"
may try to sneak through the same rift.

Back in May 2011 Nancy Friedman's blog Fritinancy ran a post titled
"Word of the Week: Duckface":

[Begin excerpt]
Duckface: “The face made if you push your lips together in a
combination of a pout and a pucker, giving the impression you have
larger cheekbones and bigger lips” (Urban Dictionary word of the day,
June 9, 2010).
[End excerpt]

Nancy points to a New York Times review in 2011 of the journals of
literary critic Alfred Kazin:

[Begin excerpt]
He’s suspicious of the chic young Susan Sontag; in 1978 he refers to
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the future Supreme Court justice, as "duck face."
[End excerpt]

Here is a citation for a 1904 article in an Illinois newspaper
containing an anecdote about a Chinese waiter using the term "Duck

Date: April 1, 1904
Newspaper: Daily Illinois State Register
Article title: Servants in China
Article subtitle: The Way They Show Their Contempt For Foreigners
Page: 2
Column: 5
Newspaper location: Springfield, Illinois

[Begin excerpt]
"You should hear the beautiful names
these waiters call us," he said "The
butler has been referring to me all
evening as 'He of the Dragon Face,'
When you [speaking to the president
of the mess] asked for the soda be call-
ed out, 'Give the poison water to old
Duck Face.' 'Fill the glass of Hog
Eyes.' 'When Big Mouth has finished
with the fire wine pass it to Red Eyed
[End excerpt]

The modern "duckface" is a temporary facial distortion. The 1904 "duck
face" might have referred to a less transitory facial configuration.
So the semantics are not identical.


The American Dialect Society -

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