Posted by R. Berg on January 08, 2003
In Reply to: Like a duck on the water - swan? posted by JRG on January 08, 2003
: : : : LIKE A DUCK ON THE WATER -- From a news story about Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson's first day on the job as mayor of the newly merged city and county government: " 'How's it going?' he asked, reaching for his lunch, from a café nearby. 'How wild and crazy it is?' 'Like a duck on water,' Deputy Mayor Joan Riehm replied. 'That means we're smooth on top but paddling like hell underneath,' Abramson explained." The Courier Journal, Louisville, Ky., Jan. 7, 2003.
: : : I've been aware of a near-identical simile in the UK for a few years now, but over here, we always talk of a swan - apparently calm and serene, but paddling like crazy just beneath the surface. I don't have a print reference, but I'm sure that someone will come up with one.
: : Swan does sound better than duck.
: My experience in the US has always associated the phrase with an affinity to something, as in "He took to it like a duck to water." Perhaps the prepositional variance accounts for the difference.
Those two are completely different phrases. "Like a duck to water" is traditional. "Like a duck on water" is new, I believe, and is meant to be darkly humorous.