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There's a lovely, odd little song by Lemon Jelly called Nice Weather For Ducks, which references the idiom Lovely Weather for Ducks.

Despite conventional thinking, rain is not lovely weather for ducks, because the rain washes away the oil in their feathers that lets them float.

But accuracy aside, I could not find an origin for this phrase online, and now it has me curious.

Where does phrase originate, and how long has it been around?

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    The stars are singing (1953) film starring Rosemary Clooney contains the song Lovely weather for ducks. I have no idea if this is the origin of the expression or not. – WS2 Jun 2 '15 at 20:19
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    Can you add your research so we don't duplicate your efforts? – Kristina Lopez Jun 2 '15 at 21:14
  • @KristinaLopez Admittedly I was a little busy when I wrote this, so it wasn't much. idioms.thefreedictionary.com/Lovely+weather+for+ducks – Zibbobz Jun 3 '15 at 0:52
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    I always though it came from the fact that their feet are usually in the water - so they didn't mind getting them wet. (After all, your hair and clothes will dry fairly easily - but you're going to be squishing around in your soggy shoes all day.) – Oldbag Jun 3 '15 at 12:53
  • If rain washes away the oil from duck's feathers then why doesn't the same thing happened when ducks are swimming? hobbyfarms.com/how-to-treat-wet-feather-in-ducks – Mari-Lou A Sep 22 '18 at 4:37
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Nice (or lovely) weather for ducks:

  • Wet, rainy weather ( humorous) - Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms Di John Ayto

One early usage is from 1860:

  • ... it seems fine weather for ducks. “If we had not had enough of water, we might stop to admire the contrast between STANFIELD'S Oulward Bound, and Coorcn's Bella Venezia—both wonderfully true to nature; so true that, standin before them, ...(Punch or The London Charivari, May 19, 1860)

Ngram: "weather for ducks"

According to The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English:

  • the expression is known in variant forms since 1840.

and from the Dictionary of Proverbs Di George Latimer :

The Old Curiosity Shop by C. Dickens 1840:

  • "*from which appearance he augured that another fine week for the ducks was approaching and that rain would certainly ensue".*
  • The expression appears to have been in use from the first half of the 19th century. Given its humorous usage it may just be derived from a common reference to the common sight of ducks at ease in the rain.
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  • Clearly they who coinified the phrase were not intimately familiar with the biology of ducks. ;p – Zibbobz Jun 2 '15 at 20:34
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    According to Partridge, fine morning to catch herrings on Newmarket Heath was popular long before the ducks version took off mid-C19 (presumably Newmarket Heath was prone to flooding during prolonged rainy spells). – FumbleFingers Jun 2 '15 at 20:39
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    @FumbleFingers That's totally irrelevant but much more interesting! – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 3 '15 at 1:13
  • @StoneyB: Surely not totally irrelevant! After all, they're both whimsical references to weather conditions that are more suitable for (semi-)aquatic wildlife than to people. And it helps counter the natural tendency for people today to suppose that modern "cliches-in-the-making" are more sophisticated/witty than those of earlier times (because they're more familiar, and we usually understand the references more easily). Anyway, Partridge specifically says the herrings one was the mid C17-mid C18 equivalent of fine weather for ducks in A Dictionary of Catch Phrases in my link. – FumbleFingers Jun 3 '15 at 12:26
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It's a hunting phrase. The ducks can't hear people creaping up because of the noise of rain on water. So it's good weather for hunting/shooting ducks rather than the ducks enjoying themselves. Logically if it was about enjoying water we'd say 'it's nice weather for fish'.

I've no reliable source for this other than personal recall. I think it was in the family...

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    No source for your answer, and contradicting sources in another answer. On ELU this counts as a bad answer. We trust reliable sources here. – AndyT Aug 10 '17 at 9:37
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When the weather is bad, people don't go duck hunting. I've always been told that this is where the phrase came from. It's very old. The first time I heard it was about 50 years ago.

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The earliest reference to this phrase I have seen is in the 1924 silent movie "One Wet Night" in which one of the text cards says "This is great weather for ducks."

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