No-one wants to be sent on a wild goose chase, even if it is to procure a nice fat goose for your table. Geese are notoriously hard to catch, because they are devilish buggers who run every which way to avoid you, and if you get too close they’ll turn around and attack you with their beaks. Far better to risk disturbing the guard dog than a guard goose, because geese don’t care about being offered treats or bacon or a juicy bone as a distraction.
The wild goose chase — a pointless and overly complex search which will result in failure to find what you’re looking for — is the prank of choice by which institutions initiate new members, a form of hazing whose only wound is likely to be of one’s ego.
What you want even less than to be sent on a wild goose chase is a serving of Winchester Goose, which refers to either syphilis or the 16th century prostitute who gave it to you. The Jacobean red light district of London — Southwark — fell within the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Winchester, hence the name. Poet John Taylor offered this charming verse in 1630 which makes tongue-in-cheek reference to the lividity of infection:
Then ther’s a Goose that breeds at Winchester,
And of all Geese my mind is least to her;
For three or foure weekes after she is rost,
She keeps her heat more hotter than a tost.
Taylor, it might be noted, is also the author of this charming palindrome with which you may be familiar: “Lewd did I live, & evil I did dwel.”
He was quite the wag; the opening to his long poem The Praise of Hemp Seed is titled thusly: “A Preamble, Preatrot, Preagallop, Prearack, Preapace, or Preface; and Proface my Masters, if your Stomackes Serve.” It sounds like he was high when he wrote that. In case you’re wondering what his real feelings are about the hard bobbles you have to pick out of your ganja before you can roll a nice big spliff, then these lines should suffice: “This little seed is the great instrument / To shew the power of God Omnipotent.”
To goose someone is to playfully poke them sharply in the buttocks in a manner similar to the way a real goose would. There’s absolutely nothing sexual about this kind of goose either. If you get caught doing this, however, your goose is cooked.
The goose in the picture above has been cooked to death. That’ll serve it right. Or, in the spirit of John Taylor, it’s been served, right.