Who hasn’t been on one of these, particularly if you have an older brother or sister, and they have nothing better to do than give you a hard time.
You know what I mean, going on a mission to find or do something, knowing full well that you won’t find it, or complete it because it was a lost cause to start with.
Yes, it goes very well with another saying, a dog chasing its tail.
We’ve seen that, too, watching the poor dog go round and round without ever achieving anything.
Sounds like my day today.
And it doesn’t stop there, the pointless search could also be described as ‘searching for a needle in a haystack’.
That is, to my mind the very definition of a living nightmare.
The origin of the idiom, well that’s a little more complicated because there isn’t just one definition.
Coined by William Shakespeare, but not necessarily in the sort of language we can read easily – it’s a bit like my ability to translate Spanish to English. It does, however, refer to a ‘wild goose chase’.
Refers to, of all things 16th Century horseracing, and because I don’t have a time machine I can’t go back to fact-check. However, it refers to the other riders following the leader around the course, in much the same formation as geese flying through the air.
My little story to go with it:
If you are good at your job, and that is beginning to be noticed, your boss will find one of these ‘wild goose chases’ just for you, in an effort to make you look bad.
It happened to me once: my task was to search the basement, where old records were stored, for a folder that a former employee had thought they had filed it in the wrong storage box, a supposition supported by the fact the folder was now needed to clear up a clerical error and the file wasn’t in the specifically marked storage box.
My job was to search every one of the other 765 boxes stored haphazardly in the basement until I found it.
It was, I was told later, sitting on his desk the whole time, and when I couldn’t find it, was going to swoop in and say he’d found it.
Of course, it went missing before he could, so he got a bollicking for not storing the files properly, and I got the job to clean up the basement. I’m not sure who got the worst punishment.