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Snipe hunt

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  • The snipe hunt is a North American rite of passage for many young campers, though the term has also taken on a figurative meaning. We will examine the definition of the term snipe hunt, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

    The term snipe hunt, when used figuratively, means a fool’s errand, a hopeless cause, the pursuit of something that is unattainable. The term comes from a prank that has been played in North America since the 1840s. In the snipe hunt, an unsuspecting victim is primed with a lurid story concerning a vicious animal known as a snipe. The subject is then led to a secluded spot, usually at night, and left with a bag or pillowcase in order to catch the snipe. This is a practical joke, as there is no vicious animal known as a snipe. The victim is allowed to discover this reality for himself. While a snipe hunt may be used in a vicious and bullying manner, for the most part it is a good-natured rite of passage in which the subject proves his bravery and then is considered “one of the club” who understands the secret of the snipe hunt. Snipe hunts are often conducted at scouting camps, and are sometimes conducted by adult leaders who supply a treat as a “snipe” at the end of the hunt. The snipe is in fact a real bird, and a snipe hunt may also refer to the process of hunting for these small shore birds.

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    Examples

    Not only is it an ethical mess, but the amount of money being wasted on this glorified snipe hunt should offend as fiscally conservative a public servant as, say, Bob Corker. (Esquire Magazine)

    This, he adds, is why he’s been so freaked out over the way his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, recused himself from the “Putin-collusion” snipe hunt. (The Mercury)

    A short fortnight ago we dove headlong into the American tradition of the snipe hunt. (The Kitsap Sun)

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