Shaking Things

Most of Australia stared on nonplussed when confronted with Kevin Rudd’s repeated fair shake of the sauce bottle, but he has literary precedent: the supreme PG Wodehouse gave us two shakes of a duck’s tail in his classic Right Ho, Jeeves:

“And in two shakes of a duck’s tail Gussie, with all that lapping about inside him, will be distributing the prizes at Market Snodsbury Grammar School before an audience of all that is fairest and most refined in the county.”

Wodehouse’s meaning comes across effectively despite the use of idiom, and in the mouth of Wooster it’s rather hilarious. In the PM’s mouth, a firm shaking is also hilarious, but the meaning effectively eludes entrapment.

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