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The Scrivener: Quacks

Have you ever eaten a duck’s ect? Would you eat a duck’s ect? Wordsmith Brian Barratt ruminates on ects and ratten chairs. Amazing that ect and ratten should have escaped from the clutches of the compilers of dictionaries.

For lots more fun with words visit Brian’s Web site The Brain Rummager www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas/

The local Council decreed that cafés may have tables and chairs on the footpath. A resemblance of culture has arrived in our little suburban shopping strips.

That’s nice. We also have lots of sandwich boards. They’re not so nice. They impede progress. It’s like a bloody obstacle course.

Our butcher’s shop has no less than three sandwich boards blocking the footpath. One of them advertises pork in Chinese plum, stuffed lamb roast, beef olives, and at the bottom of the list, duck’s ect.


I said duck’s ect.

They sell goat meat, too. That’s OK, because many people like goat meat. (I’ve eaten it myself, given that it was described on a Zambian menu as mutton.) This is a multicultural society. We’ve moved a long way from British rossbiff. Some of our butchers in Australia even make boerwors. Delicious! I’d eat it every week except that it’s too fatty for my diet.

But I’ve never eaten a duck’s ect. I don’t even know which part of the duck it is. Perhaps it’s a delicacy enjoyed by the culture which makes ratten chairs.

True — they were advertised in one of those junk mail leaflets that appear in the letter-box.

‘Ratten’ isn’t in most dictionaries. It refers to the process of rattening. That’s an old-fashioned sort of Luddite practice, evidently, to do with smashing machinery in order to enforce Trade Union regulations. Ratten can also mean that something has been chewed by rats.

However, back to our local shopping centre. A pharmacy used to have a nice little sign on their counter: ‘Ears pierced while you wait’. It might have been: ‘Ears pierced wile-u-wait’, but we’ll overlook that.

In a world where ducks have ects and furniture shops sell smashed or rat-chewed chairs, people have a choice. They can have their ears pierced while they wait, or they can leave them at the pharmacy and collect them later.

This is indeed a brave new world. The other day, on the car radio, I heard someone in the USA say, ‘Prediction is risky, especially when it’s about the future’. Well, it would be, wouldn’t it? On the other hand, politicians are very good at predicting the past and telling us why they broke promises.
But perhaps the greatest risk lurks all around us.

We’re bombarded with a warning on the labels of all sorts of products — ‘Keep away from children’. Now that might well be an appropriate warning for certain priests, but it puts parents and teachers in a very difficult position.

Not half as difficult as the duck’s ect, though. I’ve just realized what it is. The butcher is offering a medical service for severely depressed and psychiatrically disturbed ducks: ECT, electro-convulsive therapy.

I hope he’s qualified, and not some sort of quack.

© Copyright 2006 Brian Barratt


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