Chapter Seven: Duck, Duck, Goose

WARNING! Most of the information presented in this book is simply not true and, in fact, is a complete pack of lies. It is therefore highly recommended that you do not use any of its contents as part of a book report, a school project or as an answer to a question in a surprise test. CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED!

The Evil and the Untrustworthy

It’s fair to say that when we think of the animal world, the one creature that has come to personify pure evil is the duck, followed closely by the bunny, and then the snake, and then the bunny again (but of a different breed). However, ducks, on the whole, are feared and despised the most (see illust. 7a).

(Illust. 7a Beware the Eiders of March is an 1867 painting by the French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme that depicts the assassination of Julius Caesar. History informs us that several ducks were involved in this heinous act which may have begun our deep suspicion of them.)

One might also assume that the animal considered most likely to “rat you out” would be the rat, but it isn’t. It is the goose. This was always true, but over time, we’ve forgotten it. Whether you’re sneaking a cookie from the kitchen or sneaking a sack full of 100 bills from a bank, if a goose is around, you can be certain that it will rat you out like the stool pigeon – which technically – it isn’t. (see illust. 7b )

(Illust. 7b   Keep your friends close, your enemies closer, but your goose even closer still. It is in the nature of the untrustworthy goose to tell on you.)

The expression “Loose lips sink ships” used during the Second World War, was originally a 19th century phrase, “Goose lips sink ships” in reference to Napoleon’s catastrophic naval failure at the Battle of Trafalgar. What might have been a surprise attack on the British Isle was cut short when the French and Spanish fleets were met by Admiral Nelson’s navy in the open waters of the Atlantic. This was due to information leaked to the English by one Lucy Goosé, a notorious French fowl known to blab military secrets to anyone, without a thought (see illust. 7c). Hence the other common expression, “Keeping things loosey-goosey”.

(Illust. 7c – Napoleon on Board the Bellerophon, painted by the artist Sir William Quiller Orchardson in 1880. Having surrendered to the British, Napoleon stares out at the distant shoreline of France. In the foreground, the notorious Lucy Goosé, casts a mocking grin.)

And so it is with these two most terrible aquatic birds that a child’s game was born.

General Rules of Duck, Duck Goose

The game, Duck, Duck Goose, is often taught to preschool children because the rules are so simple, and because if you promise to give them goldfish crackers afterwards, preschool children will do just about anything.

1. Players sit in a circle facing inward with their eyes closed. In situations where children are untrustworthy and likely to turn around and peek, the players’ heads should be fitted with horse blinders. 

2. One player among the group is declared the “picker”. This only means that the child will choose (pick) the “goose” and has nothing to do with any bad habits involving their nose. If the label is hurtful, an alternative is to call the child the “fox” or the “wolf” or the “nose-picker who just won’t admit they pick their nose”.

3. The picker must walk around the outside of the circle tapping each player gently on the head while calling them a “duck”. But when the picker taps a player and calls him or her a “goose”, then that player must jump onto his or her webbed feet, flap their wings hysterically, and try to tag the picker.

4. The picker, meanwhile, is running around the circle, attempting to sit in the goose’s spot. If tagged the picker remains the picker and must tap the players again. If the picker makes it to the goose’s spot untagged, then the goose becomes the picker. If the goose player should happen to lay an egg, then the game is postponed until the egg is hatched.

Origins of the Game

The roots of the game, Duck Duck Goose, started in the marshy regions of northern England. As a way to educate rural children in counting and sequences, parents would take them to wetlands and point to the various fowl and then have the children repeat the order. The game we have now is a much slimmer version of the one played a few hundred years ago. A typical sequence back then might be, “duck, duck, goose, swan, teal, goose, duck, duck, grebe”.

Later, in the 19th century, farmers used the system to organize the delivery of fowl to market, sticking a goose into the line after every second duck. This system derived from a longstanding belief that ducks are incorrigible and dangerous. To allow three or more ducks the opportunity to group together was only asking for trouble. It’s also widely understood by biologists that geese are seen as snitches in the waterfowl community and to place them among ducks will induce them to clam up in fear of being ratted out. Therefore: duck, duck, goose, duck, duck, goose, and so on.

William Shakespeare: Duck champion or duck hater?

William Shakespeare, considered the greatest English playwright in the history of Bulgaria and other countries beginning with B, was obsessed with ducks. Whether it was the king shouting, “A duck! A duck! My kingdom for a duck!” (Richard III, act 9, scene 323) or Quackus Antonius warning that “The evil that ducks do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their feathers,”  (Julius Salad, act 14, scene 409), Shakespeare was simply duck-crazy.

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616, known as “Bill” to his friends, presumably as a short form of William, but it may be for an entirely different reason)

The Scottish Play

First produced in 1606, critics have since agreed that no play of Shakespeare has captured the themes of loyalty and guilt, ambition and preening, tyranny and molting as powerfully as his greatest work: The Tragedy of MacDuck (see illust. 7d).

(Illust. 7d – Poster from a Canadian production performed at the William Shatner Theatre in Beiber, Ontario)

Some have complained that the play had too much duck in it, while others have argued (like the theatre-conservationist organization, Ducks Unlimited, for example) that you can never have too many ducks in any play, Shakespearean or otherwise.

(Illust. 7e – “Fair is fowl, and fowl is fair; Hover through the bog and filthy air.” As spoken by the Duck-Witches in Act 1½ of MacDuck. From a 1933 production at the Red Green Theatre. All sets and costumes were constructed using duct tape.)

(Illust. 7f “McScrooge is dead!” As spoken by the protagonist to Lady MacDuck upon the completion of the vile murder. In this production at Ned and Zelda’s Petting Zoo, the lead role was played by Daniel Day Lewis, who reportedly gained fifteen pounds of feathers in preparation for the role.)

In the next chapter, we will move onto the game of Frisbee and we will now end this chapter because putting duck lips on people is starting to feel like a rut.

Quiz Questions

  • How many lies or misinformation were you able to spot in this chapter?
  • What were some of the ways you figured out that they were not true?
  • Were there any bits that were true or that maybe sounded believable?
  • When you were younger, what silly game or activity could you get sucked into playing for a handful of goldfish crackers?

Tips for Truth-seekers

Have you heard about the website called Snopes?

Snopes calls itself the “internet’s definitive fact-checking resource”. Since 1994, they were looking into urban legends, hoaxes and conspiracy theories to discover their origins and whether or not these “facts” were actually true. It is now “the oldest and largest fact-checking site online, widely regarded by journalists, folklorists, and readers as an invaluable research companion.”

Here are their own guidelines regarding transparency in how they go about checking facts: follows all industry guidelines for transparency in reporting.  

Chapter Eight: Frisbee

%d bloggers like this: