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Lame duck

Posted by ESC on May 30, 2003

In Reply to: Lame duck posted by Sax on May 30, 2003

: Can you please tell me the origin of this phrase? Thank you...Sax

LAME DUCK - "an officeholder whose power is diminished because he is soon to leave office, as a result of defeat or statutory limitation.'lame duck' was originally an eighteenth-century import from Britain meaning a bankrupt businessman; by the 1830s the phrase was used to label politically bankrupt politicians.this particular fowl has an honored position in American slang. In addition to 'lame duck,' there's 'sitting duck' (vulnerable), 'queer duck' (odd), 'dead duck' (finished), and 'ducky' (great, unless used scornfully).and "if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it just may be a duck (on how to tell a Communist, attributed to labor leader Walter Reuther)." From "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993).

A second reference addresses the question of why "lame duck"? ".We must go to London for the answer, to a street known as Exchange Alley which, prior to 1773, was the place where London stockbrokers conducted their business.Exchange Alley was the place where stockbrokers were first divided into two classes, bears and bulls. And it was also the place which saw, all two frequently, a third class - those who were cleaned out; those who could not meet their financial obligations. These latter came to be known as 'lame ducks.' Why? Because, to the amused spectator, they 'waddled out of the Alley!'" From "A Hog on Ice" by Charles Earle Funk (Harper & Row, New York, 1948).