We’re all kippledby Sam Leith / August 21, 2013 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
“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 the phone with my thumbs it occurred to me to wonder, for the first time in the history of my possession of this pleasingly esoteric piece of knowledge: why on earth wouldn’t a duck’s quack echo? What sonic property could the ordinary duck muster that would cause an exception in the generally accepted laws of physics?
Seconds later: humiliation. Snopes—the myth-debunking website—had confirmed that my “knowledge” was yet another urban myth; woundingly described there as the winner of the “Most Ludicrous Entry” contest with regards to bogus lists of little-known facts on the internet.