Snipe hunt

This afternoon one of my colleagues passed on the good news that he had just put a roadkilled charadriiform in the Museum of Zoology’s freezer. I don’t have a lot of mites from Albertan charadriiforms, so I was eager to see get the bird and wash it. The body turned out to be that of a Wilson’s Snipe, currently Gallinago delicata Ord in most taxonomies, though not all feel that it deserved having been raised from its previous subspecies status (G. gallinago delicata).

It was a lovely specimen and I took it to show to people in the main office. “It’s pretty rare to come back from a snipe hunt with an actual snipe!” I said, attempting to be amusing. Two people laughed, and two just stared. “You know what a ‘snipe hunt‘ is, right?” I asked the latter. Nope. When I explained, they got the concept immediately, and came up with other examples (e.g., an apprentice carpenter being sent for a ‘board stretcher’). I wonder if there is an unrecognized linguistic divide in Canada, with snipe-hunting being common in only some regions.

A snipe in the hand.

A snipe in the hand. I washed it after taking the photo and was rewarded with a small number of feather mites and lice.

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4 comments

    1. Interesting! My gut feeling if it were generation-related would be that the phrase would be better known among older folks, but the two people in my office who hadn’t heard it were older than those who had. Does that match your observation?

  1. For some reason whenever I hear ‘snipe hunt’ I think ‘Jaberwocky’ which I suppose is my muddled memory of The Hunting of the Snark.

  2. I am familiar with the expression “snipe hunt” from the Midwestern US of A. I feel it is related to “wild goose chase” through its avian reference and implied futility.

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