4July2001                                                                                             HOME
TO: Lexicographers Everywhere
FROM: Bill Swart
RE: TO HUNT, TO PURSUE, TO SEEK, TO OUTWIT

I got a call from Webster. The lady said that, as a hunter and fisher for these past 60 years, and being something of a man of letters, I was recommended as one who might help with their next edition. Seems that they were having trouble with the word "hunt."

So, said I, to hunt is to seek, to search for, to pursue, to outwit. Uncertainty is basic to hunting, I added. It's like baseball. To succeed a third of the time is good. To succeed half the time is better than Ted Williams, and that is VERY GOOD. To succeed more than half the time is hardly hunting or baseball.

What is it, then, she asked, when a man sits in a heated outhouse, in a fenced enclosure, guarding a pile of carrots, then rests his firearm on the outhouse window sill, and assassinates a carrot addict? Well, again, to hunt is to seek, to search, to pursue. So, how might we turn this into a hunt? Does it become a hunt if the man buys a size bigger boot, forsakes the heater and wears more socks, and sits on a stool beside a tree -- still in the fenced hundred acres -- still guarding a pile of carrots? No? What, then, does it take for the activity to become a hunt, for the man to become a seeker and pursuer? Would it suffice if he were to stand every half-hour, and look behind him, away from the bait pile? And what if he were to use open sights?

Well, now, we are awfully close to turning this from a piece on the hunt to a philosophical treatise.

So, what's it got to do with fishing? Well, the carrot-hunter has a cousin, the "fisher," who rents a charter boat, complete with captain, tackle, beer, and electronic fish-finder. As for services, I've not seen reports of concubines aboard, but the captain will assist in attaching lures, will net any results of the excursion, and would crank in the fish, should his customer become overtired or overdrunk.

And then, there is the fisherman (notice, no quote marks here on fisherman) who dons hip boots, and mosquito dope, attaches a little net 'round his neck, and sneaks up on brookies hiding under banks of a four foot-wide crick. This guy is a hunter! He seeks, pursues, and outwits.

And neither do we put quote marks on fly fisherman. He is a hunter, a seeker, a pursuer. He's an athlete. And he doesn't hire somebody to tie the lure to the line. It's likely he made the lure. He's an artist-athlete.

So what? The deer doesn't care whether he's shot by a seeker-pursuer, or by a great pale hunter smelling of kerosene fumes. The brookie doesn't really respect his, sneaky, hip-booted adversary smelling of deet. And the brown trout, himself an athlete, can't appreciate the artistic talent and dexterity of the guy who tied that fake insect last winter, and cast it so precisely.

So, what's my beef? Well, I hate "pre-owned" for good used cars. I hate "custodian" for hard-working janitors. I don't like "pastor" for preacher. And, I advised the lady from Webster, don't define "hunter" as someone who uses a sonar thing to locate deer.

Oh, wait, sonar is for fish. It's radar they use to find the trophy buck, right? It's so hard to keep up with the cutting-edge of technology. I'm going to return that new electric clock-radio to Wal Mart. The last thunder storm broke it. It just sits there blinking. Must have been a voltage surge. Funny thing -- it happened at exactly twelve o'clock.

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