Maybe I'm mixing it up with mallards.
An old canard is not an old saw, though. It's a false or unfounded story, a groundless rumor or belief. It comes from the French canard, which means hoax. Many seem to think it comes from the phrase vendre un canard à moitié--to half sell a duck, which means to cheat. The story behind this phrase is lost in history.
I found an interesting alternate version in a book called The Gaelic etymology of the languages of western Europe by Charles Mackay.
The natural history of the newspaper canard could more satisfactorily dealt with if authentic were forthcoming as to the origin of the term. It is to be feared, however, that the accepted story of the first canard--the typical canard to which all canards of a later period to be worthy of the name should present at least a general resemblance--must itself be regarded as a canard. The first canard, so runs the legend, was the tale of twenty ducks, all characterized by a ducklike greediness; while one of the number exhibited, under peculiar circumstances, a voracity akin to that which our own journals, in the dull season of the year, are still in the habit of attributing to the pike. To test not only the appetite and capacity of ducks, but also their disposition to eat one another, the first of the band of twenty was slain, and his remains distributed among his companions, who hastened to gobble him up, feathers and all. A second duck, one of the nineteen who had just swallowed their fellow-creature--was now killed and like the previous victime, cut up into small pieces for the benefit of the survivors. Duck number two having been thus disposed of , a third was treated in a similar fashion. A like fate awaited duck number four: until, one after another, nineteen ducks had been sacrificed on the altar of science, and for the advantage, in respect to immediate gratification, of duck the twentieth. This strange story was quoted from one French journal to another and was generally disbelieved, so that the 'voracity of the duck,' and ultimately the word 'duck,' got to be looked upon as the appropriate title of absurd newspaper journalism of every kind. The pointless fable of the twenty ducks (unless, indeed, the last all-devouring survivor was meant to prefigure such credulous newspaper readers as might be able to gulp down the preposterous fiction), after dying out in France, was revived in America, where the pretended derivation of the word canard, in the sense of newspaper hoax, from the duck story as above related, is sanctioned by the authority of Webster.--
Pall Mall Gazette, March 2, 1876.
There is also a French plane called a canard, because the French thought it looked like a duck when it flew, but I think I'll leave you to look that one up for yourselves...
*Being me, I forgot my intention of my last blog, which was to highlight some other blog before I go. Fortunately, I have a great suggestion for today, namely Nathaneal Green's 500 Words on Words . His blogs are always interesting and meticulous reflections on language and many things language related. Just by chance, he has a new post up where he's asking YOU for reading suggestions. So go give him some. You'll get points, and maybe even an AWARD. I just got a great one. Okay, there's no money involved but you'll still be happy that you did.