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After a couple of weeks in which the atmosphere in the Justice Shed – the virtual meeting space of Team LB – has been heavy with even more dreadful gloom than usual, yesterday’s tweet from Sara Ryan gave us all a welcome lift.

“I’m lining up our ducks for a big meeting on Thursday. Sworn to secrecy. Sorry. Rare lack of transparency.

A little later, she added “Last tweet reminded me of that hilarious sketch on Smack the Pony when she stocks an entire supermarket with toilet duck. Very funny.”

Encouraged by this and by the lighthearted hashtag, more contributions to the running joke appeared:

“Watch out for a bit of this…

“Hmmm – guess their ducks will be ducking and diving as usual…”

“From this end looks more like snakes and ladders than ducks!”

“Hope goes well but now only able to imagine you leading a gang of grey suited civil servant types down a corridor.”

And my personal favourite:

“Here’s wishing you duck linearity.”

This one also set my word-nerd brain off.  I couldn’t think of the word for ‘of, or pertaining to, ducks’, despite running through all the the animal adjectives I could remember.

The everyday ones.  Cats: feline.  Dogs: canine.  Cows: bovine.  Pigs: porcine.  Horses: equine.
The less common ones.  Sheep: ovine.  Wolves: lupine.  Foxes: vulpine.  Crows: corvine. Swans: cygnine. Seals: phocine.  Bears: ursine.

Aha!  There’s a pattern: root of Latin name plus -ine.  So (racks brain for long-disused Latin vocab.), the Sacred Geese must have been, um, ah, click fingers several times, anserine.  What was the Latin for duck?  Not a clue, but I’m sure it wasn’t ‘mallardus’.  Which is kind of a pity.  ‘Happy mallardine marshalling’ has a certain ring to it, dontcha think?  (In case you are a new reader or hadn’t noticed, this word-nerd adores alliteration and assonance as well as adjectival obscurities).

At which point my mental Rolodex throws out another card:  G’s Papa used to have a bird guide.  Which had Latin names in it.  Bird book, bird book.  Which bookcase?  I close my eyes and do a virtual scan of the cabinets (owing to my bibliophilic tendencies, there are bookshelves in almost every room of this house).  Hobby section… downstairs.  Dining room.  Second bookcase from the right.  Erm… not sure which shelf.  It turns out to be the top one, which seems slightly odd, as everything else on that shelf is ‘travel and foreign parts’ and it would logically be more at home on the third shelf down, ‘Ordnance Survey maps, outdoor and walking guides’.  On the other hand, it is ‘Birds of Britain and Europe’, so although we mainly used it to identify birds at home and in Scotland, maybe it just limbos under the ‘foreign parts’ bar…

Never mind that just now, where are the ducks?  The book begins, promisingly, with waterbirds.  Divers – Gaviidae; grebes – Podicipedidae; cormorants and shags (the common cormorant or shag / lays eggs inside a paper bag / the reason you will see no doubt / it is to keep the lightning out / but what these unobservant birds / have never noticed is that herds / of wandering bears may come with buns / and steal the bags to hold the crumbs*…. CONCENTRATE, Kara!) – Phalacrocoracidae; herons – Ardeidae; yup, the geese are Anserinae, as I thought; and ducks.  Anatinae.

So it is with great pleasure, indeed with glee, that I now invite you to join me in wishing Dr. Ryan accurate anatinine alignment; and that her sharpshooter will have straight sights that will fell her feathered foes with a single shot.

So to finish, here’s a couple of videos.  This one, appropriately enough from Ducks Deluxe, is dedicated to the Sloven ducks (is this a typo? – Ed.) in hopes that it may become their signature tune.


And here, for Dr. Ryan, are some more of pub-rock’s finest: the equally appropriate Feelgoods, with the entirely appositely-titled ‘She Does It Right’.  With our admiration, and with very best wishes for Thursday.


* Christopher Isherwood