Let me draw your attention to a question posted in English Language Learners where OP has extracted a text from the book "The Collector" by John Fowles that uses the verb lameduck. I can not find any reference to such verb online.

Violence and force are wrong. If I use violence I descend to his level. It means that I have no real belief in the power of reason, and sympathy and humanity. That I lameduck people only because it flatters me, not because I believe they need my sympathy. I’ve been thinking back to Ladymont, to people I lameducked there. Sally Margison. I lameducked her just to show the Vestal Virgins that I was cleverer than they. That I could get her to do things for me that she wouldn’t do for them. Donald and Piers (because I’ve lameducked him in a sense, too) — but they’re both attractive young men. There were probably hundreds of other people who needed lameducking, my sympathy, far more than those two. And anyway, most girls would have jumped at the chance of lameducking them.

Have any of you got the original book? Does it contain that exact text? In affirmative case, what does that verb mean?


2 Answers 2


I found a reference to lameduck and the John Fowles' book The Collector in Something and Nothingness: The Fiction of John Updike & John Fowles By John Neary

See last four lines.

The Collector

Perhaps Fowles used artistic licence with his character Miranda?

Grammarist defines lameduck as:

A lame duck is a politician who has been voted out of office but whose term is not yet up, or a politician who is still in office but cannot run for reelection.

Lame duck as applied to a politician is a North American term, though it is gaining usage across the globe.

The first American president referred to as a lame duck was Calvin Coolidge.

The phrase lame duck may also be used to describe an ineffectual person.

Lame duck originated on the London Stock Market in the 1700s to describe an investor who is unable to cover his debts, the plural form is lame ducks.

Lame duck is spelled with a hyphen as in lame-duck when used as an adjective before a noun about half the time.

Merriam-Webster's second definition for the word is:

chiefly British : a person, company, etc., that is weak or unsuccessful and needs help

In the story Miranda Grey is kept captive by the protagonist Frederick Clegg. He is from a lower social class than Miranda, perhaps lameducking is the act of putting someone down in the context of the quote in OPs question?

A contributor to New Casebook Series:John Fowles edited by James Acheson seems to confirm this interpretation

The Collector 2

From this essay on the book

He admits that he made a mistake setting his sights on Miranda as she was of a higher social class than he: “… she’s only an ordinary common shop-girl, but that was my mistake before, aiming too high” (Fowles 282) and so if he were to have a new guest, it would be someone who would respect him and who would learn from him, instead of the other way round as it was between Frederick and Miranda: “I ought to have got someone who would respect me more. Someone ordinary I could teach” (Fowles 282). This is a conclusion he comes to after he has read Miranda’s diary and finds out that she never really loved him and felt superior to him.

and this analysis

Miranda feels sorry for him, but at the same time, she has the feeling that she should not

Here is the Guardian book review of The Collector and Goodreads & Dutch Readers' takes on the book

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    Presumably the more directly annotative meaning is ‘treat or perceive as a lame duck’. Perceiving and treating someone as weak, ineffectual, and in need of help would be more or less tantamount to being condescending towards them. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 14:00
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    @JanusBahsJacquet what about including your comment as an answer? Great work, bookmanu!
    – RubioRic
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 6:44
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    @RubioRic Nah, bookmanu did all the work; I’d never even heard of lameduck as a verb. They’re free to incorporate my comment into their own answer if they want. :-) Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 7:26

Lameducking is Cockney rhyming slang for ‘f*cking’. (See Cockney Rhyming Slang as a Disguise Mechanism for the Prevalent English Swear Words.)

Miranda, in the book, could be talking about all the people she has slept with. Although in some of the contexts in which she uses the term this doesn’t seem to make sense.

  • 1
    I added a link to back up the rhyming slang, but I think that it needs to be supported from the text (which seems unlikely, especially if you say it doesn't make sense in all contexts).
    – Laurel
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 16:12

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