On the radar: Milkshake Duck
It’s been a little over a year since Twitter user Pixelated Boat innocently posted a joke about the ephemeral and fickle nature of Internet fame, but the story of Milkshake Duck has now been retweeted over 10,000 times and spawned an entry in Urban Dictionary. And it’s a term that is on our radar, as Milkshake Duck has now also entered our database where we track the longevity and spread of potential new words.
The whole internet loves Milkshake Duck, a lovely duck that drinks milkshakes! *5 seconds later* We regret to inform you the duck is racist
— Pixelated Boat (@pixelatedboat) June 12, 2016
The story is one we’re all familiar with: Milkshake Duck is beloved by the online community for its innocent and adorable milkshake-drinking antics, until it is revealed that Milkshake Duck is secretly racist, at which point online opinion inevitably sours.
Over time, Milkshake Duck has become a term that can be used to refer to any person or thing that gains fleeting popularity for something seemingly pleasing, only for a deeper dig to reveal unfortunate truths about their past or opinions, typically a connection to or history of some form of bigotry. The entry in Urban Dictionary, added on 11 June 2017 – almost exactly one year after the original tweet – states that a Milkshake Duck is:
“Someone who gains sudden fame for something nice and positive, only to soon after be revealed as a deeply flawed character with terrible opinions and/or a shady past, often involving corrosive social/political ideologies, which quickly tarnishes their fame and the good will people momentarily had towards them.”
There are tweets from early 2017 using the hashtag #milkshakeduck demonstrating this kind of extended meaning, and scattered uses in blogs and on entertainment sites in the same time period, but the majority of usage of the term arises in June 2017, when it was frequently used in reference to a game developer whose new video game was initially drawing a lot of positive attention until… Well, you know how the story goes. This recent surge has brought the term to a much wider audience.
The Internet is in no short supply of sudden rises and just as rapid declines in public favour, so by creating a neologism to describe a phenomenon for which no term currently exists, Pixelated Boat may see continuing use of their accidental coinage.
This is what happened with phubbing, although this coinage was quite intentional: because the concept (the practice of ignoring one’s companion or companions in order to pay attention to one’s phone) was something very real that resonated with a great many people, the term caught on and became widely spread and well established enough to be added to our online dictionary in 2016.
Milkshake Duck is, by comparison, very much in the infancy of its extended use, but we will be tracking it with interest to see if it takes flight or not.
Update: Milkshake Duck made our Word of the Year 2017 shortlist.