Snipe hunt

From Academic Kids

A snipe hunt is usually one of a class of practical jokes that involves experienced people making fun of newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task. Tolstoy's novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina though portray real snipe hunts.

Inexperienced campers or hunters 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. Since the supposed snipe doesn't exist, the hunt never succeeds, no matter how foolishly the newcomer acts.

There actually is a species of bird called a snipe, but it is found primarily in wetlands and the joke is invariably played in wooded areas.


There are a number of variations on this prank, including:

  • The long stand in UK schools involves a teacher sending a pupil—usually picked for being annoying as much as for gullibility—to another teacher for "a long stand". When the pupil arrives and delivers the request, they are asked to wait—usually in full view of the class.
  • In the Boy Scouts of America it is common for first-time attendees at a camporee (a large weekend event) to be sent after a "left-handed smoke-shifter," supposedly a branch with a fan on the end used to deflect smoke from a campfire. This practice is also common at Camp Agawam. Another such gag practiced by Californian Scouts is to send them looking for a "bacon stretcher"
  • In the Air Force a variant involves new airmen being sent to the commissary to purchase a bottle of prop wash—prop wash is actually a term for turbulent airflow coming from the aft end of a propeller. Other military snipe hunts include sending someone for keys to a drop zone, box of grid squares, blinker fluid, winter air for tires, canopy lights, and lightstick batteries. Sometimes comissaries will get into the act and prepare things like bottles labeled "prop wash", and so on to sell to unsuspecting victims.
  • A US Army variation is to send a soldier in search of a Priky-7, a non-existent object that sounds like an older military slang term for a radio. After being sent to several non-commissioned officers (i.e., sergeants), he is finally sent to a Sergeant First Class (an E-7 pay grade). That sergeant explains why he isn't looking for a prick E-7, but a Priky-8, and is sent looking for the company's First Sergeant (an E-8 pay grade).
  • In Dutch offices, newcomers are often sent to fetch the "folder of missing documents", or a "plinth ladder".
  • New employees at Brazilian firms may be asked to do tasks like fetching "round envelopes" for sending "circular letters" (memos), but most such practical jokes lose their meaning when translated to English. This tradition is dwindling, as most companies strongly disapprove of it.
  • Housing construction crews in the USA occasionally like to send new hires to the business on a hunt for a "rafter jack".

Popular culture

  • In the premiere episode of the US cartoon Doug, the titular character is pressured by bully Roger Klotz into searching a local pond for a "neematoad." The name is most likely a reference to the Roundworm, a member of the phylum Nematoda.

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