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Jan 12, 2022
This week’s theme

This week’s words
black swan
lame duck

lame duck
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with Anu Garg

lame duck

(LAYM duhk, laym DUHK)

1. An elected official soon going to be out of office due to losing a re-election bid, not running again, or being ineligible to run again.
2. Something or someone weak, unsuccessful, ineffectual, disabled, helpless, etc.
3. Someone who cannot fulfill their contracts, especially one who has lost a great deal of money in stocks or other speculations.

The term originated in the London Stock Exchange where a stockbroker who lost a lot of money and defaulted on his debts was called a lame duck. Other animal metaphors used in the financial world are bull and bear. Earliest documented use: 1761. The term came to be applied to politics about 100 years later.

When employees are fired, they are typically escorted out soon after. This is also how it’s done after elections in most places. As soon as the victor is confirmed, the old prime minister is out and the new one takes over.
In some places, such as the US, there’s usually a transition period. For example, elections are held in the first week of Nov and the new president doesn’t take over until the next Jan 20. The outgoing president is a lame duck during these 2.5 months. The system was designed with smooth transition in mind and it works, assuming people follow the norms. As we saw on Jan 6, 2021, sometimes even a lame duck has enough time to cause chaos. Going forward, maybe it’d be better to have security escort the loser outside the White House gates as soon as fired by the people.

“‘The country needs leadership not a lame duck PM who has lost the faith of his MPs and cabinet ... ,’ Jenny Chapman said.”
Denis Staunton; Tory MPs Warn Johnson He Is Running Out of Friends; Irish Times (Dublin); Dec 20, 2021.

See more usage examples of lame duck in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

People's memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. -Haruki Murakami, writer (b. 12 Jan 1949)

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