digesting duck


Canard [kuh-nahrd] is the French word for duck. The word also can mean an unfounded or false, deliberately misleading fabrication, a false report, rumor or hoax. That usage derives from the phrase ‘vendre un canard à moitié’ (‘to half-sell a duck’), thus, from some long-forgotten joke, ‘to cheat.’ The Canard Digérateur, or Digesting Duck, was an automaton in the form of a duck, created in 1739 by Jacques de Vaucanson (the French inventor credited with creating the world’s first true robots, as well as the first automated loom).

The mechanical duck appeared to have the ability to eat kernels of grain, and to metabolize and defecate them. While the duck did not actually have the ability to do this – the food was collected in one inner container, and the pre-stored feces was ‘produced’ from a second, so that no actual digestion took place – Vaucanson hoped that a truly digesting automaton could one day be designed.

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