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Lame Duck

President Obama delivers his final State of the Union address

Lame duck, the political term for an elected official who is in the period between when they are still in office but awaiting the inauguration of the successor (either through a recent loss in an election or because of term limits) is spiking this evening. It is January 12th, 2016, and President Barack Obama, currently a lame duck himself, is giving his final State of the Union address.

The term lame duck was not originally used in a political context

The term has not always been a political one; lame duck has existed for hundreds of years, and has had a variety of meanings. The earliest known use of it comes in 1761, in a letter from Horace Walpole (the man who coined serendipity) to Horace Mann: “Do you know what a Bull, and a Bear, and a Lame Duck are?” The answer, in this case, was that a lame duck was a person who was unable to meet their financial obligations (especially used to refer to a financial speculator). Lame duck has also been used to refer to a person whose performance suffers as the result of an injury.

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