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“Ha, ha, ha,” I told my brother smugly. I probably said it exactly that way: like a Martian who has learned about human expressions of mirth from a book. “That’s a mistake, right there, of course. Because a duck’s quack doesn’t actually echo.”

“Doesn’t it?” he said. His was an open sort of curiosity. I think it was a children’s book he had been reading to my toddler.

“No,” I said, with a hint of a sneer. Then out came the phone and the Wikipanion app—the great settler of disputes in modern conversation. But even as I started to bash…

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