I was intrigued by a quote in the Financial Times by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder who won a standing ovation when he returned to remind his supporters of their ancient triumphs.
Schröder’s message for the party was to persevere in this year’s general election, with a real chance of beating chancellor Merkel’s centre-right coalition in the final weeks of the campaign.
Schröder claimed Peer Steinbrück, the SPD candidate for chancellor, should stick to his guns in spite of trailing in the opinion polls. “The fat ducks are always at the back,” Schröder concluded.
Fat Ducks Are Always at the Back
OK. What does “The fat ducks are always at the back” mean?
Reader Bernd from Germany, with whom I have been exchanging emails explains …
Schröder’s English has not improved since he was chancellor. Regardless, idiomatic expressions translate poorly in general.
The original German idiomatic term is: “Hinten sind die Enten fett”. Literally translated: “Ducks are fat at the back (the rear).”
If you eat a duck, the juicy bits are at the rear. This was true when the term was coined and ducks actually were wild animals which flew. Then, the breast was tough to eat and not at all juicy, so the choicest bits were at the back.
Schröder uses this expression quite frequently – it is really rather old fashioned and very North-German.
In context it means: Steinbrück’s chances come late in the game. Early polls don’t make a difference.
I believe this is the most comprehensive explanation of the term ever.
Google translates “Hinten sind die Enten fett“ as “back, the fat duck“, which is even more confusing than the Financial Times translation.
Image courtesy of wandtattoo4you.
The above, slightly different phrase translates as “behind the duck fat” even though the difference between “sind” and “ist” is the difference between “are” and “is”.
This type of problem is one I frequently encounter when I do all of these Google Translates. I often have to make my own revisions, but this phrase I never would have gotten correct without asking.
A tip of the hat to reader Bernd for a comprehensive in-context explanation.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock