Duck test History

Many times it is impossible to prove legally that a certain individual is a communist; but for cases of this sort I recommend a practical method of detection–the “duck test.” The duck test works this way: suppose you see a bird walking around in a farm yard. This bird wears no label that says “duck.” But the bird certainly looks like a duck. Also he goes to the pond and you notice he swims like a duck. Then he opens his beak and quacks like a duck. Well, by this time you have probably reached the conclusion that the bird is a duck, whether he’s wearing a label or not.

Patterson, Richard C.


1: Identify the “duck test.”

2: Why would a label be important when determining whether someone was a communist?

3: What does this “test” tell you about American attitudes toward communism in the late 1940s and early 1950s?