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31
Mar
2010
Ducks Don't Fly in China E-mail
City Life - Blogs & Columns
Written by Nolan Bowling
A month or so ago in class, in an attempt to help teach the word "duck" I started making flapping motions with my arms. The Chinese English teacher started chuckling. They won't understand that. She said. Why not? I asked. Because ducks can't fly. She replied matter-of-factly. After a brief discussion of weight ratios and air speed velocities, I decided to drop it for the time and continue with my lesson.

The idea stuck with me though. I used to go to the park back in America from time to time. Usually it was just to go swimming at the pool, or to take a walk with my mom, but I definitely remember ducks being at that park. Flying ducks. Why would they think that ducks can't fly? In my next lesson with another class of the same grade, I repeated the flapping motion, which was met with the same basic results. Again I was told that ducks can't fly.

Since then I have occasionally posed the question of the flight capabilities of ducks. The best I was able to get was that, maybe they could flap their wings and just kind of jump far. Not good enough for me.

The other day my girlfriend was at my apartment, and for some reason or another I asked her if ducks could fly. I can't remember her exact response, but it sounded something like the word "no."

Being in a feisty mood, I decided to prove her wrong. With a quick Google search, I found plenty of photos of flying ducks. Since we both enjoy pointless little debates like this, she decided to defend her side of the argument.

Those aren't ducks.

What do you mean? Those pictures clearly say duck underneath them.

Those aren't ducks. She insisted.

Not to be outdone by denial, and having regained access to websites normally blocked by the firewall, I loaded up Youtube and showed her some videos of ducks. Specifically flying ducks. She continued with her "Those aren't ducks" argument up until a video of a little girl feeding some ducks with her parents. Whether it was because the people in the video actually referred to the ducks as ducks, or more specifically, because the little girl called them ducks (She has a weakness for cute things.) she finally relented, and admitted that ducks could fly.

However, she insisted that the animal "duck" translates too in Chinese, the one I have enjoyed eating in restaurants many times, could not fly. I'm sure that I was eating duck all those times. A couple places even served it with the head still attached, and I'm darn sure that was a ducks head. What was going on?

I decided that this was something I needed to get to the bottom of. Luckily, with the aid of a couple more google searches, and some info from Wikipedia, I found this article. My best guess from it all is that the Chinese language is a bit more specific about ducks than English is, so what we see as a wild duck is possibly what in Chinese is called a "wild goose" or something like that. What they refer to as ducks is a breed of duck that's been bred for food so long, that it has mostly lost the ability to fly, either because it's gotten to fat, or simply has no need to.

I've now accepted that in China, "Ducks don't fly," but that's not going to stop me from flapping my arms in class!

Our valuable Editor Nolan Bowling has been with us since Wednesday, 31 March 2010.
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Comments  

 
+2 #3 Xujun 2010-04-03 04:56
In China the flying ducks are called "wild ducks," which are hardly seen anywhere nowadays. No wonder young people don't know about flying ducks. In the 1960s, there is a popular movie "Never Forget" ("千万不要忘记"), in which the main character loves to shoot wild ducks.
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+1 #2 www.Joop.in 2010-04-02 11:01
good observation and great story! Actually, as I remember we have walking ducks and flying ducks back home in Netherlands. I know this because we used walking ducks to train our dogs (border collies) to retrieve them etc.

Perhaps these walking ducks are originally from China?
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+3 #1 Peter 2010-03-31 18:12
I have had this same problem in many of my classes. Even though the chapter in their textbook shows pictures of ducks flying, they still don't believe it. I wonder where they get this knowledge from that they insist is true.

Boys and girls, ducks migrate over continents, do they walk?
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