Snipe hunt

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A snipe hunt, a form of wild goose chase that is also known as a fool's errand, is a type of practical joke that involves experienced people making fun of newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task. The origin of the term is a practical joke where inexperienced campers are told about a bird or animal called the snipe as well as a usually ridiculous method of catching it, such as running around the woods carrying a bag or making strange noises. Incidentally, the snipe (a family of shorebirds) is difficult to catch for experienced hunters, so much so that the word "sniper" is derived from it to refer to anyone skilled enough to shoot one.[1]

In the most popular version of the snipe hunt, especially in the American South, a newcomer is taken deep into the woods late at night and told to make a clucking noise while holding a large sack. The others, who are in on the joke, say that after they sneak away they will walk back towards the newcomer, thereby driving snipes towards the bag holder. The frightened snipes, they say will be attracted to the clucking noise and easily caught in the bag. The newcomer is then simply left in the dark forest, eventually to realize his gullibility and find his way home or back to camp.

A wild goose chase can also be more serious, either a deliberate attempt to thwart an opponent by sending him/her off on a quest based on misinformation, or a mistake on one's own part leading to a hopeless quest. [2]

[edit] Fool's errand

A fool's errand is a task that cannot be accomplished because of fate or because it is a joke. It comes mainly in two varieties: trying to find something that does not exist, or trying to accomplish an impossible task. Others who are aware of the prank will often redirect the victim to several different places.

The prank often involves the use of jargon, where the immediate meaning is not obvious. It can also depend on a new recruit's unfamiliarity with the business. Such as being sent on a search for an ID10T form (IDIOT).

In carny, a type of fool's errand is known as the key to the midway.

[edit] Common items

  • Homonyms: long stand, long weight (wait), or a long felt want, shoreline.
  • Impossible items: a length of WLAN cable for wireless LAN, dehydrated water. In the Navy, the victim is sent for batteries for the sound-powered phones, which, being powered by acoustic energy, do not require batteries. Other Navy snipe hunts are for the elusive "shore line", as in the Navy rope is called line so a common phrase would be "Hey Smith, go find me 10 feet of shore line." In the Army, there is a long list, including a box of grid squares (spatial referents on a map), chem light batteries, (parachute) canopy lights, keys to the drop zone or an aircraft, or having someone gather exhaust samples in garbage bags from trucks or equipment.
  • Imaginary or pointless items: left-handed smoke shifter, a current brush for electrical outlets, a plinth ladder, Turboencabulator, and a Johnson Rod.
  • Machinery parts that sound real, but if considering the actual machine, cannot exist: muffler bearings, piston return spring, canooter valve or headlight fluid.
  • Tools that do not exist, such as a shelf-stretcher, or left-handed versions of achiral tools (wrench, hammer, or screwdriver), or tools made out of unlikely materials such as hammers made of glass. (Left-Handed Hammers DO exist, and are certainly NOT Achiral in all cases, Certainly their are also similar Right-Handed versions such as a popular Ridgid Brand hammer that was available at The Home Depot (tm)).
  • Fetching a quantity of something that can't be contained, e.g. a bucket of vacuum, A bubble for a spirit level, steam, flight line, striped paint, prop wash or sparks (especially sparks from a grinder).
  • Things that have no physical existence, such as telling an orchestra member in whose part is written tacet to 'go find the tacet', as if it were a musical instrument.
  • In the restaurant industry, new kitchen hires are often told to go to neighboring restaurants to get "ice mix". If the neighboring restaurant is a pizzeria, they can be sent for a "wooden skillet".
  • Items that are ridiculous, such as tartan paint.

[edit] US Army

  • Guard the flight line.
  • Individual is sent to his platoon sergeant to find a PRKY-7 (Prick E-7, signal corps specific).
  • New tanker is given a ball-peen hammer and chalk and told to find and mark the soft spots in an M1 Abrams' armor (There are none, and as such, the Tank Commander would return to the sight of his tank marked with chalk and possibly marks from the hammer).
  • Individual is sent to the motor pool for Blinker fluid. (turn signals)
  • Individual is sent to look for Lanyard Grease.

[edit] Regional cryptids

Many regions have a cryptid or imaginary being used as a snipe hunt. In Bavaria, tourists were taken on extended expeditions to search for chamois eggs, or on all-night Wolpertinger stakeouts. In Scotland, tourists are told about the wild haggis hunts, while in the Western United States, they may be warned about the savage jackalope. In Australia, foreigners may be warned to remain alert for drop bears, mythical creatures that are a popular joke amongst the locals. In Wyoming, natives warn tourists to watch out for rattlesnake eggs (Rattlesnakes don't lay eggs; they give birth to live offspring).

In France, in Switzerland and in the north of Italy, particularly in mountains like the Alps or the Jura Mountains, tourists are sent to hunt the "dahu", an imaginary mammal whose left legs are shorter than its right legs, so that it can walk easily along a mountain slope. A practical way to hunt the beast is to call him from the back: it turns around and falls, because of its long legs on the top and his short legs on the bottom.

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[edit] Further reading

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