By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After a touchdown during Monday night’s Vikings game, tight end Kyle Rudolph started a game of “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.”

It’s just that the Ohio native called it “Duck, Duck Goose” and was very quickly schooled on what the game is called in Minnesota.

So, why do Minnesotans say Duck, Duck Gray Duck? Good Question.

The kindergarteners at Normandale Hills Elementary in Bloomington played “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck” on Tuesday afternoon. But every so often, one child tapped another child’s head with “Goose!”  Their teacher, Christina Donley – a Minnesota native — grew up with “Gray Duck,” but lets her students know there are other versions.

“I let them do what they want,” she said before laughing, “Not all the time!”

To hear the version of the game that someone hadn’t heard before can be jarring.

Enrichment teacher Betsy Johnson said she hadn’t heard “Duck, Duck, Goose” until she went to college in Boston.

“I had no idea where they got that from,” she said. “We debated about it and I always thought I was right.”

According to Christopher Pollard, a digital strategist, Minnesota is the only state where people use “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.”

He was a dubbed a “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck” expert in 2014 after he published a map showing Minnesota to be unique in what it calls the game. That map went viral after it was picked by Buzzfeed, and it started a conversation Minnesotans and non-Minnesotans didn’t even know they needed to have.

“It’s Scandinavian in origin,” he said of the “Gray Duck” version he grew up with in Minnesota.

He later learned there a several versions of this game. But, there are two in particular that come from Sweden. One called “Anka Anka Gås,” which translates into “Duck, Duck Goose.” Another is “Anka Anka Grå Anka,” which translates into “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.” He believes the Swedes with that version likely made their way to Minnesota.

Pollard admits this story could simply be lore, but he chooses to believe it for now.

“It could make a great dissertation,” he laughed.

He also points out that the Minnesota version likely persevered because Minnesotans take pride in being different.

“It’s self-evident that we, as Minnesotans, are proud of the fact that we play a really unique version of a game that many enjoy around the world,” Pollard said. “We should celebrate that.”

Heather Brown

Comments (5)
  1. I grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, and my grandparents came here from Sweden. And we were taught duck, duck goose. I had never even heard of grey duck until I moved to Minneapolis. so it is not ALL of Minnesota

  2. I concur with Maggie… Grew up in Hibbing and never heard of “grey duck” until I moved to the Metro. I think it is regional even in Minnesota.

  3. Sharon Walsh says:

    I grew up in Northern Minnesota and we always said duck duck goose. I never heard of duck duck gray duck till I moved to Minneapolis

  4. Russ Rhode says:

    Duck, Duck Grey Duck is based on the original Swedish game, Anka Anka Grå Anka, which translates literally as Duck, Duck Grey Duck.

    Apparently, it was a Norwegian who translated that erroneously to Duck Duck Goose after having his morning coffee and slurring the Swedish “Grå Anka” as “Gås” or Goose.

  5. I agree with many of the commenters so far. I grew up in Duluth. I was taught duck, duck, goose. Never heard grey duck until I moved to the Twin Cities as an adult.