An assertion which is simple, widely-accepted and wrong. The derivation is uncertain but it is thought to come from the French vendre un canard à moitié, to half-sell a duck (i.e., not to make the deal at all).

Usually used to dismiss an unwelcome truth: “That old canard about nuclear energy being dangerous . . .”.


Related entries:

Self-Evident, Fallacies.

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

3 Responses to “Canard

  • Thanks so much, Shaun. Your explanation is very helpful. I was unsure at first if the association with fallacies was because canards are by definition false, or that they are often falsely/deceitfully applied. I’ll take it as “The Fallacy of Canard”.

  • This entry confuses me. Is nuclear energy being dangerous “wrong” or an “unwelcome truth”?

    • Hi Phil,

      I believe that the quoted speaker in this example is attempting to dismiss as a canard (i.e. wrong) the idea that nuclear energy is dangerous.

      As David’s linked entry on Nuclear Energy makes clear, he himself would disagree! He would see the danger of nuclear energy as a truth, but one unwelcomed by the quoted speaker, who thus attempts to dismiss it as a canard.

      Hence I take the meaning of this entry as a whole to be in essence “when someone dismisses something as a canard, be aware that they may very well in fact be dismissing as untrue something that is true, but which they wish wasn’t“.

      Or indeed something which they wish to convince you isn’t true! Canard, I might add, is a word whose weight really comes from carrying the shaming sense of “oh gosh, surely you’re not foolish enough to believe THAT old lie!”

      In other words, the word “canard” (meaning simple, widely accepted and false) is often used to cast doubt on something that is in fact simple, widely accepted and indeed true.

      In this sense, “Canard” might be seen as a counterpart to “Self Evident” (meaning simple, widely accepted and true), which he explains in his first ‘related entry’ above is often used to defend something that is in fact simple, widely accepted and yet false.

      The fallacy, then, is that claims which should be self-evident are widely dismissed as canards, while those which should be dismissed as canards are widely seen as self-evident.

      But I agree – this entry doesn’t represent his clearest writing!

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