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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Quackery



The pleasure center for both gourmands and word nerds is the mouth. One tastes flavors and textures; the other language. Often, the two are one and the same. For instance: the word canard.

A canard is both a French duck and a deliberate falsehood, a lie. How are they related?

Barrett's Mandrake Embrocation - total quackery

When a predator threatens a duck’s offspring, the duck will draw the predator’s attention away from them by appearing to be the bigger spoil, the easier target. It does this by quacking loudly and affecting a broken wing. Once the predator moves in, it discovers that the duck is feigning injury and can peck and jab very well indeed, driving it off. Thus are deceptions called canards, especially deceits promulgated knowingly to perpetuate a set of myths. The word made this leap in the middle ages, with the phrase “vendre des canards à moitié,” which means to cheat, to half-sell something.

To duck — to crouch to avoid a projectile — is also used to mean to avoid something, to duck a charge, say. Ducks physically duck their heads into the water when feeding. A quack is an imposter, someone who delivers false knowledge, such as a quack doctor. Quackery is the ancient term describing nonsense delivered as truth.

It is possible, then, for a person to duck from a canard from a quack practicing quackery.

Which is delicious.

 Cooks and Confectioner’s Dictionary, John Nott, 1723

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