There are expressions you grow up with and have no idea where they came from, or what they really mean, you just use them. Such is the case of Lord, love a duck! I quite often come into the kitchen to fix a cup a tea and announce to the kettle, Lord, love a duck. Thankfully the only reply I get from the tea kettle is its loud protesting whistle. Lately, I’ve been adding to it as Lord love a duck and the duck love me. Odd behaviour to say the least.
I’ve been rooting around looking for the history of this expression and am coming up short. I’ve been told by some friends, it’s a polite way of swearing, or the opposite a polite way of saying, the Lord, love me. I don’t quite get that one.
I checked the good old OED, and it has curiously only one reference explanation that of James Joyce’s Ulysses: “Paddy Leonard eyed his alemates. Lord love a duck, he said. Look at what I’m standing drinks to!”
It turns up several times in the works of P G Wodehouse, ” ‘Well, Lord love a duck!’ replied the butler, who in his moments of relaxation was addicted to homely expletives of the lower London type.”
Woodhouse might have believed the expression to have come the East End of London, but it’s possible it came from greener grounds, the cricket pitch, where apparently ducks abound.
That’s where if you get a duck, you are put out. Your first ball bowled, you get a golden duck, and when you make a run for it, you break your duck. Apparently there’s lot of quacking going on in cricket.
But Duck(y) is quite often used by bar maids. Could it be that duck is just slang for bird which is just slang for attractive girl, and maybe Duck is the not so nice euphemismn for the older bird. Ahem….girl.
It’s used as a term of great endearment, ‘How are you ducky? Come here you poor duck and have a cup of tea.’
There’s a film titled, Lord Love a Duck, which I’ve never seen. Regardless, I’ve not had much luck in discovering the origins of this peculiar expression. It could be a northern usage or at least a phrase often heard as Coronation Street’s fictional bar maids toss it about.
If you have any insight into this rather ducky phrase, I’d love to learn more. I rather like the whole messy affair of wondering where the expression came from. Oh, Lord love a duck I have no idea what I am on about!