Idiom #17 An Ugly Duckling

This week’s idiom: ‘An ugly duckling.’

Meaning:

An awkward, ungainly, unattractive child who develops into a graceful, beautiful adult is said to be an ugly duckling.

Origins:

The expression comes from the Hans Christian Andersen story called The Ugly Duckling. It was first published in 1843 and is widely regarded as a classic children’s story.

A mother duck hatches her brood only to find one duckling larger and uglier than the rest. He was very much a misfit and soon received much harassment from the other barnyard residents who eventually drive him away to fend for himself. After a struggle to survive the ugly ‘duckling’ develops into a beautiful swan.

The moral of the story is that inner beauty will always overshadow outer appearance. Interestingly, the Wikipedia article goes into a deeper analysis than I have here, postulating that this story is possibly a metaphor for Andersen’s own unhappy life.

Example:

As a child she was such an ugly duckling, but look at Sarah’s beauty and grace now.

Australian Wood Ducks with ducklings

Australian Wood Ducks with ducklings

 

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