ducks and drakes
play ducks and drakes
- to carelessly misuse one’s wealth
- to behave recklessly
- use selfishly to suit oneself
- He lost his job for playing ducks and drakes with the funds of a corporation.
- Jane played ducks and drakes with the financial system of the company.
- George W. Bush had played ducks and drakes with the economy of the United States.
- Hey, let’s play ducks and drakes on the lake.
The expression may refer to ducks rising from a pond, splashing in rings, or bobbing their heads. The majority of the earliest allusions are to “making” ducks and drakes, implying that the circular rings made by the skipping stone are similar to those made by waterfowl splashing.
The earliest printed record of the idiom dates back to 1585; in The Nomenclator, or Remembrancer of Adrianus Junius Physician, translated by John Higgins, it reads:
“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.”
To “play ducks and drakes” came to mean “trifling with” or “treating someone as if they were of no importance” by the seventeenth century.