After overhearing see also: Me being the random person I am, I decided to embark on the history of the term. Let's start with the definition. In written form, most believe the term originated in the 's. But at least one article has been found were the term was used as early as The origins of the phrase are also up to debate.
The most popular theory suggests that "ducks in a row" came from the world of sports, specifically bowling. Before the advent of automatic resetting machines, these "duck pins" would be manually put back into place between bowling rounds. Therefore, having one's ducks in a row would be a metaphor for having all of the bowling pins organized and properly placed before sending the next ball down the lane. Many bowling alleys still offer "duck pin" lanes with smaller bowling balls and shorter pins.
Another theory comes from the world of nature. Mother ducks often corral their young offspring into manageable straight lines before traveling over land or water.
Any stragglers or escapees would be noticed as long as the integrity of this line is maintained. The idea of getting all of one's ideas or ingredients or team members in one organized line would be similar to a mother duck getting all of her literal ducks in a row. The common expression suggests adult ducks, not necessarily younger ducklings. There are also sources which argue the "ducks in a row" element refers to a carnival game or two. One popular carnival game involves the player using a small caliber rifle or air gun to knock down moving targets.
It is possible that the expression came from the benefit of having all of the targets ducks arrive in a predictable and organized order. I personally agree with the last of the three theories although they are all sound in explanation. And those are but a few. I came across at least 2 other equally sound theories during my research. With no historical relevance to go off, we may never know the true origin of the term. With that being said, I think I'll stick with the one that first came to my mind.
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