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The origin of the term "lame duck"

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  • Ram Lau
    The Lame Duck s Waddle to Oblivion http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/19/weekinreview/19basics.html By DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI As Washington prepares for a new balance
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 20, 2006
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      The Lame Duck's Waddle to Oblivion
      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/19/weekinreview/19basics.html
      By DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI

      As Washington prepares for a new balance of power, there has been so
      much talk of "lame ducks" that you would be forgiven if you thought
      Vice President Cheney had gone hunting again. But the political phrase
      of the moment is actually derived not from the hunt for waterfowl, but
      for riches.

      The Oxford English Dictionary — which defines the term as "a disabled
      person or thing: spec. (Stock Exchange slang): one who cannot meet his
      financial engagements; a defaulter" — traces its origins to the London
      stock market in the 18th century, where broke investors were said to
      waddle out the doors onto Exchange Alley. Horace Walpole, the Gothic
      author and the fourth Earl of Orford, was so tickled by the expression
      that in 1761 he made the first known written reference to it, in a
      letter to Sir Horace Mann that asked, "Do you know what a Bull, and a
      Bear and Lame Duck are?"

      In the early 1800's, the phrase was being used to describe anyone who
      was bankrupt or behind on their debt payments; and by then it had made
      its way to the United States. Given its evocative reference to broken
      promises and ruinous financial speculation, language experts say it
      was nearly inevitable that the term would be adopted into political
      parlance.

      "Money men and politicians swap language the way lovers swap spit,"
      said Grant Barrett, editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Political Slang
      and The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English.

      In 1863, The Congressional Globe mocked the United States Court of
      Claims for functioning as "a receptacle of `lame ducks' or broken down
      politicians." By 1910, newspapers began using the phrase in its
      current incarnation: a reference to an elected official whose term is
      nearing an end and, freed from the accountability of voters, could be
      prone to ineffectiveness or acts of self-interest.

      As this election cycle's crop of newly unelected members of Congress
      prepare to waddle off Capitol Hill, they can take comfort in knowing
      that they could have been called worse. Imagine if Walpole had written
      his letter from Paris, where the 18th-century custom called for
      debtors to mount an ass backward and be paraded through town facing
      the animal's tail.
    • THOMAS JOHNSON
      Our current resident may be the lamest of ducks in my 54 year lifetime, with the exception of Richard Nixon. Can anyone think of a president in recent times
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 20, 2006
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        Our current resident may be the lamest of ducks in my
        54 year lifetime, with the exception of Richard Nixon.
        Can anyone think of a president in recent times who
        has entered his seventh year as bloodied as Bush?

        Tom



        --- Ram Lau <ramlau@...> wrote:

        > The Lame Duck's Waddle to Oblivion
        >
        http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/19/weekinreview/19basics.html
        > By DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI
        >
        > As Washington prepares for a new balance of power,
        > there has been so
        > much talk of "lame ducks" that you would be forgiven
        > if you thought
        > Vice President Cheney had gone hunting again. But
        > the political phrase
        > of the moment is actually derived not from the hunt
        > for waterfowl, but
        > for riches.
        >
        > The Oxford English Dictionary — which defines the
        > term as "a disabled
        > person or thing: spec. (Stock Exchange slang): one
        > who cannot meet his
        > financial engagements; a defaulter" — traces its
        > origins to the London
        > stock market in the 18th century, where broke
        > investors were said to
        > waddle out the doors onto Exchange Alley. Horace
        > Walpole, the Gothic
        > author and the fourth Earl of Orford, was so tickled
        > by the expression
        > that in 1761 he made the first known written
        > reference to it, in a
        > letter to Sir Horace Mann that asked, "Do you know
        > what a Bull, and a
        > Bear and Lame Duck are?"
        >
        > In the early 1800's, the phrase was being used to
        > describe anyone who
        > was bankrupt or behind on their debt payments; and
        > by then it had made
        > its way to the United States. Given its evocative
        > reference to broken
        > promises and ruinous financial speculation, language
        > experts say it
        > was nearly inevitable that the term would be adopted
        > into political
        > parlance.
        >
        > "Money men and politicians swap language the way
        > lovers swap spit,"
        > said Grant Barrett, editor of the Oxford Dictionary
        > of Political Slang
        > and The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English.
        >
        > In 1863, The Congressional Globe mocked the United
        > States Court of
        > Claims for functioning as "a receptacle of `lame
        > ducks' or broken down
        > politicians." By 1910, newspapers began using the
        > phrase in its
        > current incarnation: a reference to an elected
        > official whose term is
        > nearing an end and, freed from the accountability of
        > voters, could be
        > prone to ineffectiveness or acts of self-interest.
        >
        > As this election cycle's crop of newly unelected
        > members of Congress
        > prepare to waddle off Capitol Hill, they can take
        > comfort in knowing
        > that they could have been called worse. Imagine if
        > Walpole had written
        > his letter from Paris, where the 18th-century custom
        > called for
        > debtors to mount an ass backward and be paraded
        > through town facing
        > the animal's tail.
        >
        >
        >
        >
      • Gregory
        But Nixon at least had the decency to resign... Bush is a rare case in modern times. Gregory
        Message 3 of 3 , Nov 20, 2006
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          But Nixon at least had the decency to resign...
          Bush is a rare case in modern times.

          Gregory

          --- In prezveepsenator@yahoogroups.com, THOMAS JOHNSON <AVRCRDNG@...>
          wrote:
          >
          > Our current resident may be the lamest of ducks in my
          > 54 year lifetime, with the exception of Richard Nixon.
          > Can anyone think of a president in recent times who
          > has entered his seventh year as bloodied as Bush?
          >
          > Tom
          >
          >
          >
          > --- Ram Lau <ramlau@...> wrote:
          >
          > > The Lame Duck's Waddle to Oblivion
          > >
          > http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/19/weekinreview/19basics.html
          > > By DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI
          > >
          > > As Washington prepares for a new balance of power,
          > > there has been so
          > > much talk of "lame ducks" that you would be forgiven
          > > if you thought
          > > Vice President Cheney had gone hunting again. But
          > > the political phrase
          > > of the moment is actually derived not from the hunt
          > > for waterfowl, but
          > > for riches.
          > >
          > > The Oxford English Dictionary — which defines the
          > > term as "a disabled
          > > person or thing: spec. (Stock Exchange slang): one
          > > who cannot meet his
          > > financial engagements; a defaulter" — traces its
          > > origins to the London
          > > stock market in the 18th century, where broke
          > > investors were said to
          > > waddle out the doors onto Exchange Alley. Horace
          > > Walpole, the Gothic
          > > author and the fourth Earl of Orford, was so tickled
          > > by the expression
          > > that in 1761 he made the first known written
          > > reference to it, in a
          > > letter to Sir Horace Mann that asked, "Do you know
          > > what a Bull, and a
          > > Bear and Lame Duck are?"
          > >
          > > In the early 1800's, the phrase was being used to
          > > describe anyone who
          > > was bankrupt or behind on their debt payments; and
          > > by then it had made
          > > its way to the United States. Given its evocative
          > > reference to broken
          > > promises and ruinous financial speculation, language
          > > experts say it
          > > was nearly inevitable that the term would be adopted
          > > into political
          > > parlance.
          > >
          > > "Money men and politicians swap language the way
          > > lovers swap spit,"
          > > said Grant Barrett, editor of the Oxford Dictionary
          > > of Political Slang
          > > and The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English.
          > >
          > > In 1863, The Congressional Globe mocked the United
          > > States Court of
          > > Claims for functioning as "a receptacle of `lame
          > > ducks' or broken down
          > > politicians." By 1910, newspapers began using the
          > > phrase in its
          > > current incarnation: a reference to an elected
          > > official whose term is
          > > nearing an end and, freed from the accountability of
          > > voters, could be
          > > prone to ineffectiveness or acts of self-interest.
          > >
          > > As this election cycle's crop of newly unelected
          > > members of Congress
          > > prepare to waddle off Capitol Hill, they can take
          > > comfort in knowing
          > > that they could have been called worse. Imagine if
          > > Walpole had written
          > > his letter from Paris, where the 18th-century custom
          > > called for
          > > debtors to mount an ass backward and be paraded
          > > through town facing
          > > the animal's tail.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          >
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