In his Reddit AMA yesterday, the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof wowed with his answer to the question: "Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?" The thought-provoking question is a bit of an inside joke on Reddit. Authors are asked it, as are political candidates, sci fi writers, and even the President of the United States. It's an inside joke, but we wanted to know where it came from. Our leading candidate, for now, is a British newspaper.
Someone else went on Google+ earlier this month with the same question. One response pointed to a 2003 blog post by Dan Hill in which he asked for answers to a query he had seen in a newspaper letters to the editor section:
Was sitting in the pub last night, after 5-a-side footy, and my friend Sean related the above query, spotted in yesterday's Metro newspaper. It kept us going for at least 30 minutes.
We emailed Hill to ask if he had any further insight into the question's story. He responded that he had "forgotten about it" and had "no idea" as to its history. He continued: "as I say in the post, my friend Sean mentioned it to me in the pub — that was the first (and possibly last) I'd heard of it." Metro is apparently still asking the question, posing it to British UFC fighter John Hathaway in an interview published Friday. We don't know if that's the first time the question ever appeared in print, but it's the oldest instance we've found so far, and proof the question pre-dates Reddit, which didn't launch until 2005.
So what about it's time in Reddit land? Erik Martin, the general manager of Reddit also had "no idea":
First time I can remember was the Obama IAMA, but it might be a decade old meme...who knows. I think it says a lot about a person's approach to problem solving and risk though. It should be asked at all job interviews.
So the origin of the "horse-sized" duck question still remains somewhat of a mystery. If you have any knowledge where it came from, let us know.
And just in case anyone is asking: we'd take the duck-sized horses, but we'd feel bad about hurting them. Kristof took the opposite side, going "definitely one horse-sized duck." He elaborated: "Then I'd distract it with some cracked corn and, as it gobbled it up, I'd jump on its back and take it for a flight. I'm too poor to afford a private plane, so a personal horse-sized duck would be a nice alternative."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.