In Australian English we have a phrase 'emu parade' which refers to the action of one or more people walking around searching for specific things on the ground in a certain area. For example, say you have a picnic in a park, afterwards you'd systematically walk over the area looking at the ground and pick up all the rubbish you might have dropped. Or if you went camping, when you packed up the tent at the end of the trip you'd walk around the area it was on looking for any tent pegs, etc that might have been left behind. Both of these things would be referred to as an emu parade.

I've been told it's called an emu parade because it mimics the way emus forage for food, but I don't know if that is correct.

My question is, what is this called outside of Australia? Mostly I'm after English phrases, but if you happen to know of an equivalent in another language I'd be curious to hear it.

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    Chicken Parade on Johannesburg streets. Not quite such striking imagery as the Aussie version, but essentially the same idea. Here it is again (also from a South African source). – FumbleFingers Oct 18 '19 at 13:37
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    I quite like emu bobber (from 1966) - a person who picks up tickets at a racecourse in the hope of finding an unclaimed win. Aussie slang is great! – FumbleFingers Oct 18 '19 at 13:42
  • @FumbleFingers 'Chicken parade' seems to be only suggestion so far that carries all the same meanings and connotations as emu parade, and can be applied to all the same things. – Ulysses Oct 18 '19 at 15:03
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    I'm not aware of a term in British English, though your camping example is familiar (the concentration with which my daughter carries it out makes it look more like a penguin parade) – Chris H Oct 18 '19 at 15:22
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    +1 for teaching me a new cool phrase involving emus. – David M Oct 18 '19 at 16:12

One phrase is combing an area, from the verb to comb (Merriam-Webster):

3a : to eliminate (as with a comb) by a thorough going-over

b : to search or examine systematically // police are combing the city

This produces a lot of related terms and phrases. For example, beachcombers are people who comb the beaches looking for specific items, such as shells, dead birds, or buried treasure (example: the US Fish and Wildlife Service encourages people to comb beaches for dead mammals and birds). One can also comb parks, rooms, and other areas.

The figurative language has also been made fun of, like in this Spaceballs clip (YouTube) where troopers comb the desert looking for the heroes.

  • This is also done when searching for evidence in missing persons cases (at least on TV). Nice answer. – David M Oct 18 '19 at 14:04
  • A good answer, although probably not perfectly equivalent. (Approximate answers are fine though.) I think this term is probably more general than 'emu parade'. I'm not sure the latter could be used to refer to something like searching for evidence (probably too informal, or perhaps because an emu parade is not expected to be as thorough as something like an evidence search), nor would it apply to a large area like a city. – Ulysses Oct 18 '19 at 14:45
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    John Grisham, no less, has referred to a litter gang. – FumbleFingers Oct 18 '19 at 15:41
  • For related humor, consider the "combing the desert" scene in Spaceballs: youtube.com/watch?v=hD5eqBDPMDg – JYelton Oct 18 '19 at 22:56
  • @JYelton Did you read my last sentence? :) – TaliesinMerlin Oct 18 '19 at 23:40

In AmE, we have the FOD Walk:

foreign object damage (redirected from FOD Walk) TFD

Rags, pieces of paper, line, articles of clothing, nuts, bolts, or tools that, when misplaced or caught by air currents normally found around aircraft operations (jet blast, rotor or prop wash, engine intake), cause damage to aircraft systems or weapons or injury to personnel. Also called FOD.

In a fod walk, people systematically police an area for rubbish (BrE) and clear it of such.

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    A FOD walk sounds like good example of an emu parade, although probably the term is not as widely applicable as emu parade. Approximate answers are fine though. Thanks for your input. :) – Ulysses Oct 18 '19 at 14:54
  • Do you know if this term is used outside of airports or similar? – Ulysses Oct 18 '19 at 16:00
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    Ulysses, FWIW, I'm a native AmE speaker, and I've never heard FOD walk before. – weissj Oct 18 '19 at 18:37
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    I think FOD seems like a jargon term from the aircraft world. At Burning Man we call this a "MOOP sweep", but MOOP ("matter out of place") is definitely Burning Man jargon. – Glenn Willen Oct 18 '19 at 21:59
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    This is extremely common parlance in the aviation world, and extremely uncommon elsewhere. – fectin - free Monica Oct 19 '19 at 16:56

Not completely equivalent as there is no specificity for objects being sought, but there's beachcombing: searching along a shore for objects for resale.

Similarly, mudlarking, used in the context of scavenging along a river (e.g. the Thames).

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    I'd say these terms are pretty close, they're just more specific than emu parade. Approximate answers are fine though. :) – Ulysses Oct 18 '19 at 14:52
  • Beachcombing is often a solitary activity, and it's looking for items of value. An emu parade is an organized activity of a group to clean up trash. – Barmar Oct 21 '19 at 18:17

In this part of the world (just across the ditch!) we would call that person a "tidy Kiwi". As you can guess, it refers to someone who is conscientious about the state they leave places in and makes efforts to minimise their impact. In fact, it's even been used in government-sponsored campaigns on the issue of conservation.

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    The examples given in the question are people cleaning up after themselves, picking up their own rubbish and belongings at the end of a picnic or camping trip. I don't think that's in the same category as bum or scab. – nnnnnn Oct 20 '19 at 3:08
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    Ah, you're right. I've edited my answer accordingly. – Marcus Hendriksen Oct 20 '19 at 3:11
  • I hope I haven't led you away from what the OP wanted, because the same searching action could apply to cleaning up after other people or to just generally looking for things of value (and the OP did say in a comment that beach combing was close). – nnnnnn Oct 20 '19 at 3:17
  • I was mainly after a term for the action of tidying up in the described manner, rather than a term for a person who engages in such a task, but I'm still curious to hear related terms like this. :) – Ulysses Oct 20 '19 at 10:14
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    @Ulysses in that case the phrase would be "being a tidy Kiwi." Another one (bit of a hyperbole) is "treehugger". – Marcus Hendriksen Oct 20 '19 at 10:41

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