Volume 1, Issue 4.3.1bis

The Large Duck-Mention Cycle (1)

R. Mutt, P.Epist.Eng.

Duck logo here
Summary: Have you mentioned a duck today?


Sparse data supports a hypothesis of a cyclic variation of about 27 years in the usage of the word duck in English-speaking North America. Implications for Great Britain and Australia are considered.

Despite the exciting work on pig (Delse, 1990) and the promise of the emergence of hitherto unsuspected properties of scoobie that seem spuriously to indicate an isochronicity (Moonerst, 1991), we came to believe, in late 1991, that a review of the data for duck was overdue. Previous writers (Delse, 1970; Slapenarski, 1954) have suggested that a large cycle might exist for duck and that evidence supported a projection of a peak in 1994 or 1995. Our hope was that we might catch the projected peak in progress and, to our great surprise (and satisfaction), it appears that the peak will occur in mid-1995, making it possible for us and others to follow it closely and in more detail that was possible before computers made full data manipulation possible.

Evaluation of data from several sources collected over the last half century support a large peak for duck usage in 1995 which will, with a probability of 0.67 +/- 0.08, exceed by 14% +/- 4% the highest recorded (albeit putative) peak to date, that of 1939-40. A very high peak in about 1886 is speculative, although Delse (1989) makes an interesting if tenuous case by analogy with her findings on late 19th century usage of pig. Her case rests on the proposal that a reentrant usage function which operates normally in the chaotic domain occasionally approaches a discrete ergodic attractor in a predictable way only for certain classes of words and that this shift gives rise to pseudocyclic patterns of usage over linguistically stable epochs.

It is suggested that we may all look forward to duck allegories, duck metaphors, duck jokes, duck recipes, duck films and videos and nonsense duck idioms in exceptional numbers in the near future.

Kels-Dydmark mention index for duck vs. year

        .15   |                                        
              |                                o
              |     +                                   
              |    *                                    
        .10   |                   *                    
              |     *                                   
              |       *                                
        .05   |                                                  
              |                            x       
              |x           *            x    x           
                   1940           1970     1990  2000

* -- Conventional K-D data sets
+ -- Non-standard K-D-approximate data sets
x -- Non-K-D estimates
o -- Projected (present study)

(1) The full text, of which this is a brief abstract, is forthcoming in Lexical Omphaloscope.
Resident Alien is an occasional publication of the Bridgewater Institute for Advanced Study. It appears variously in electronic, paper and other formats, such as serial gummed lables.