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How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive continuity of ducks ~ Dorothy L. Sayers

Duck is the common name for numerous species of waterfowl in the family Anatidae. Ducks are generally smaller and shorter-necked than swans and geese, which are members of the same family. Divided among several subfamilies, they are a form taxon; they do not represent a monophyletic group (the group of all descendants of a single common ancestral species), since swans and geese are not considered ducks. Ducks are mostly aquatic birds, and may be found in both fresh water and sea water.

Ducks are sometimes confused with several types of unrelated water birds with similar forms, such as loons or divers, grebes, gallinules and coots.


  • [Like] water off a duck's back
    • Idiomatic: having no effect on someone
  • Women ben full of ragerie,
    Yet swinken not sans secresie.
    Thilke Moral shall ye understond,
    From schoole-boy’s Tale of fayre Irelond;
    Which to the Fennes hath him betake,
    To filche the grey Ducke fro the Lake.
    Right then there passen by the way
    His Aunt, and eke her Daughters tway.
    Ducke in his trowses hath he hent,
    Not to be spied of ladies gent.
      ‘But ho! our Nephew,’ crieth one;
    ‘Ho!’ quoth another, ‘Cozen John;’
    And stoppen, and lough, and callen out—
    This sely Clerke full low doth lout:
    They asken that, and talken this,
    ‘Lo, here is Coz, and here is Miss.’
    But, as he glozeth with speeches soote,
    The Ducke sore tickleth his Erse-roote:
    Fore-piece and buttons all-to-brest,
    Forth thrust a white neck and red crest.
    ‘Te-hee,’ cried ladies; clerkes nought spake;
    Miss stared, and grey Ducke crieth ‘quaake.’
    ‘O Moder, Moder!’ quoth the Daughter,
    ‘Be thilke same thing Maids longen a’ter?
    Bette is to pine on coals and chalke,
    Then trust on Mon whose yerde can talke.’
  • Soft as the wild-duck’s tender young,
    That float on Avon’s tide;
    • William Shenstone, "Nancy of the Vale"
    • Dodsley's Poems by Several Hands, V (1758; 1763), pp. 16–18
  • The wild duck startles like a sudden thought
  • And when at Night - Our good Day done –
    I guard My Master’s Head –
    ’Tis better than the Eider Duck’s
    Deep Pillow – to have shared –
  • All along the backwater,
    Through the rushes tall,
    Ducks are a-dabbling,
    Up tails all!
    Ducks’ tails, drakes’ tails,
    Yellow feet a-quiver,
    Yellow bills all out of sight
    Busy in the river!
    Slushy green undergrowth
    Where the roach swim—
    Here we keep our larder,
    Cool and full and dim.
    Everyone for what he likes!
    We like to be
    Heads down, tails up,
    Dabbling free!
    High in the blue above
    Swifts whirl and call—
    We are down a-dabbling
    Up tails all!
  • How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive continuity of ducks.

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