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“Just previous to immersion they [the ducks] seemed to give each other a significant nod, and then, as if by common consent, ’twas heels up and head down in the shaking of a duck wing; and when they reappeared, it was amusing to observe with what a self satisfied, darn-it-how-he-nicks-’em air they paddled off to repeat the experiment.” – Journal, October 29, 1837
I can’t find a good way to translate that “darn-it-how-he-nicks-’em”. While digging it, I found that the same phrase occurred in a 1807 Alexander Anderson’s satirical cartoon about President Jefferson’s Embargo Act of the same year. It would be interesting to know if Thoreau was intentionally citing that satirical cartoon. Indeed, the derisive look of the man with the turtle, the one uttering “Darn it” etcetera, seems quite coherent with the self satisfied air of the ducks described by Thoreau, but I find hard to believe that he had in mind a cartoon published thirty years before when he was writing that journal entry.
How would you paraphrase Thoreau’s “darn-it-how-he-nicks-’em”? Do you think it has any relationship with Anderson’s cartoon?
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