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Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day 108

The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was first published at the end of the eighteenth century, and given that the current health crisis is giving too much time to read books, I thought I’d pick a daily word from it until I got bored….

I also managed to get one day behind with these because of doing rather too much walking, so here’s the extra one to make the number of days right  🙂

Ducks and Drakes

This is defined as “to make ducks and drakes: a school-boy’s amusement, practised with pieces of tile, oyster-shells, or flattish stones, which being skimmed along the surface of a pond, or still river, rebound many times. To make ducks and drake of one’s money, to throw it idly away”.

I hadn’t realised that this phrase for skimming stones is still in use in some areas, it’s thought that it dates from the sixteenth century and took its name as the stone hitting the water looks like a duck going above and under the water. The second meaning of the word, to throw away money, comes from the idea of throwing an item away. The phrase was used commonly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with people advising “not to make ducks and drakes” out of an issue, ie, don’t waste money on it.

This is another one of those phrases that has fallen out of usage to a large degree over recent decades, although it appears to have increased in usage over the last few years. As an aside, I’m not very good at skimming stones, I can usually get about two and then the damn thing sinks….