ducks and drakes
1585, due to association with waterfowl. The precise origin is unclear, and may be from ducks taking off from a pond, or making rings when splashing, or bobbing their heads.

Sense “to squander, to throw away” shortly thereafter, attested 1614, from sense of “throwing money away, as if throwing stones away in this pastime”.

Noun

ducks and drakes

  1. A pastime of throwing flat stones across water so as to make them bounce off the surface.
    • 1585, The nomenclator, or remembrancer of Adrianus Junius, John Higgins:
      A kind of sport or play with an oister shell or stone throwne into the water, and making circles yer it sinke, etc. It is called a ducke and a drake, and a halfe-penie cake.
    • 1913, DH Lawrence, Sons and Lovers, chapter 7
      They sat on a pebbly bank. Suddenly he caught sight of a nice flat stone, and, jumping up, began to make ducks and drakes on the water.
  2. squandering of resources, especially money; used in expressions like "to make ducks and drakes of", "to play (at) ducks and drakes with".
    • 1614, James Cooke, Tu Quoque
      This royal Caesar doth regard no cash; Has thrown away as much in ducks and drakes As would have bought some 50,000 capons.
    • 1849-50, Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
      He soon made ducks and drakes of what I gave him, sank lower and lower, married another woman, I believe, became an adventurer, a gambler, and a cheat.
Synonyms
  • (pastime) stone skipping, stone skimming, stone skiffing, drakestoning
  • (squandering) squandering, wasting
Translations
  • German: Steinehüpfen, Steineflitschen, Ditschen
  • Russian: печь блин



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