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Posted by Pamela on May 26, 2006

In Reply to: The duck's nuts posted by Smokey Stover on May 25, 2006

: : : Can someone find the origin of the phrase 'the duck's nuts'?? generally a term for something good used in australia.

: : Not sure who coined it but I presume it's meant to be a humorous echo of the phrase "the dog's bollocks" which also signifies something good in British English (not sure if it's used in Australia).

: Someone on the Web (I've forgotten the URL) compares it to "the bee's knees," a whimsical expression of the '20s or '30s signifying something good, but rarely seen. Bees may have knees, for all I know, but duck's nuts? ô SS ô

I did a bit of tracking on this one. "Duck's nuts" does not appear to be in use at all before 2002 and isn't in wide use now, so it may be a fairly recent addition to Australian slang. Only about 100 Australian web site's (on google) mention the phrase, and a lot of those are about (a) the racehorse ("Duck's Nuts"), (b) the brand of beer or (c) the now-famous posh nightclub in Darwin (this had some press because the pollies hung out there). The race horse name is the earliest use, from the late 90's. The phrase is not listed in any of the slang dictionaries I have access to (quite a few), and is only on one internet slang site (to mean "perfect", with no suggested origin) and (most important) is "undefined" in the urban dictionary (although the fact that it has an entry means that has likey reached some critical mass). Most of the remainder of the web sites use it to mean "the very best (of some category)", mostly in relation to sport and cars, although one person has used it to describe a brand of nappy; these sites all date from 2002 onwards. One site uses it in the sentence "rare as duck's nuts" (perhaps their testicles are small? or perhaps the phrase was confused with "hen's teeth"). From all this, I suspect it may have gained wider use recently due to it's appearence in the press during the 2004 election and it's use in the 2003 movie Gettin' Square. Strangly enough, two of the press items allude to the "double meaning" of the term ("Someone suggested the "Duck's Nuts", a name with two possible meanings if you think about it." said journo Geoff Parry Unless ducks commonly own nuts, I can't see the 2nd meaning they are alluding to. "Dog's bullocks" is not a phrase that I've ever heard anyone use in Australia, and I suspect that if I did I would have taken it to mean "dog's ball's" (an abbreviation of "sticks out like ..."). Historically, "bullocks!" means "absurd" in Australia. "Bee's knees" and "cat's pyjamas" would be the two common phrases used in the same way as "duck's nuts". Pamela

See: the meaning and origin of the phrase "the bee's knees".