Word Confusion: Duck versus Duct

Posted March 19, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

This confusion just makes me so crazy! Sure the words sound alike and a very clever manufacturer has taken advantage of this with his branded “Duck Tape” — I am rather disappointed that the tape doesn’t have little duckies waddling along the roll! It does not mean, however, that the words ARE the same.

Heck, stand above the crowd — and it IS a crowd! — and look more intelligent. Duck when someone tries to duct this one through.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Duck Duct
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

“So Many Ducks” was photographed by Gaetan Lee and is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of John de Rosier

Part of Grammar:
Noun 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Verb 2, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun: duck, ducks
Third person present verb: ducks
Past tense or past participle: ducked
Gerund or present participle: ducking

Verb, transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: ducts
Past tense or past participle: ducted

Waterbird with a broad, blunt bill, short legs, webbed feet, and a waddling gait 1

A quick lowering of the head 2

Informal term of affection in Britain, particularly amongst cockneys (can be plural, ducks) 3

Strong untwilled linen or cotton fabric used for casual or work clothes and sails 4

A batsman’s score of zero 5

Verb, intransitive:
Lower the head or the body quickly to avoid a blow or so as not to be seen

  • [Duck out] Depart quickly

Plunge one’s head or body underwater briefly

[Bridge] Refrain from playing a winning card on a particular trick for tactical reasons
Verb, transitive:
Lower the head or the body quickly to avoid a blow or so as not to be seen

  • [Informal] Evade or avoid an unwelcome duty or undertaking

Plunge one’s head or body underwater briefly

Channel or tube for conveying something in particular 6

A strong, cloth-backed, waterproof adhesive tape 7

Verb, transitive:
Usually be ducted

Convey through a duct
Look at the ducks, mommy!

Oh, duck, don’t look like that.

No, we’ll use the duck as we need a good strong pair of trousers.

He’s out for a duck.

Verb, intransitive:
The spectators ducked for cover.

She ducked into the doorway to get out of the line of fire.

I thought I saw you duck out.

I was engaged twice and ducked out both times.

I had to keep ducking down to get my head cool.

With the hand I had, I had to duck the trick.

Verb, transitive:
He ducked his head and entered.

He ducked a punch from an angry first baseman.

It was a responsibility that a less courageous man might well have ducked.

We’ll need a bigger duct for the air conditioning in a building this size.

It’s a system of tubes, pipes, and metal chutes that form the ducting.

Your tear ducts are blocked.

Duct tape was invented to repair leaks in ducted ventilation and heating systems.

Verb, transitive
We’ll need to duct this through the walls.

Can we duct these wires through here?

I can’t believe they ducted the electrical right next to the cable!

Noun: ducker, duckling Adjective: ductless
Noun: ducting
History of the Word:
1 Old English duce, from the Germanic base of plunging, expressing the notion of diving bird.

2 Middle English of Germanic origin and related to Dutch duiken and German tauchen meaning dive, dip, plunge.

3 Late 16th century

4 Mid-17th century from the Middle Dutch doek meaning linen, linen cloth. It’s related to the German Tuch meaning cloth.

5 Mid-19th century and short for duck’s egg, used for the figure 0 because of its similar outline.

6 Mid-17th century in the sense of course or direction. It’s from the Latin ductus meaning leading, aqueduct, from duct- + led from the verb ducere.

7 1970s

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Ducks at the Upper Lake, Glendalough, Ireland” is Superchilum’s own work [CC BY-SA 3.0] and “Entrance to the Cave of the Sibyl, Cumae” by Carole Raddato from Frankfort, Germany, [CC BY-SA 2.0] are both via Wikimedia Commons.