False scent

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

A false scent or false trail is an incorrect scent which may mislead an animal which hunts by smell, especially a hound. This may be the result of deliberate interference by a hunt saboteur or it may be a form of control by the master.[1] Aniseed, a red herring or the entrails of a rabbit are commonly used for this purpose.[2]

Metaphorical usage[edit]

In the first[3] and second[4] editions of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage Fowler uses the heading false scent to explain writing that causes the reader to second-guess: because the writer knows what is coming ahead, he may forget that his reader doesn't, and unwittingly "lay false scent" by writing something ambiguous that can only be disambiguated later in the text. The reader, once he realises he has been distracted, must go back and rescan the sentence or paragraph to understand the writer's intended meaning.


  • When compiling a dictionary from postal contributions, we sort the letters in order to be able to refer to them later.
Various ambiguities – that "letters" may be taken to be those of the alphabet, and so "order" to mean alphabetical order – may lay false scent that is not detected until the reader reaches "refer", if even then.


  1. ^ Michael Billett (1994), A history of English country sports, p. 22 
  2. ^ "Pathfinder", Hugh Dalziel (2005), Breaking & Training Dogs, p. 162 
  3. ^ Fowler, Henry Watson (1926). A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1st ed.). Oxford University Press. 
  4. ^ Fowler, Henry Watson; Gowers, Sir Ernest Arthur (1965). A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-281389-3.