Defining Leadership

Etymology 101 – Defining the Head Hunter

Corey Rozon asked:

A head hunter can be a savage who cuts off the heads of his enemy, a baseball pitcher who deliberately throws the baseball at a batters head or an executive recruiter who looks to fill open positions in a corporation. The following article will give the brief Etymology, or history, of the term head hunter.

O. Henry’s Head Hunter

“…there came vividly to my mind recollections of the head hunters–those grim, flinty, relentless little men, never seen, but chilling the warmest noonday by the subtle terror of their concealed presence…”

Tribal Head Hunter

Head hunting has been practiced all throughout history in almost every corner of the world. In fact head hunters had thrived in the Balkan region right up until the early 20th century. Headhunter tribes usually believed in the existence of soul matter, which could be captured and added to the general stock of soul matter belonging to the tribe. The soul matter could then be used in rituals to contribute to anything from the fertility of the human population, to livestock and even crops. Taking the head of an enemy was also said to weaken the power of that enemy. Head hunters would keep the heads as trophies as tokens of courage and manhood. In many societies, young head hunters are not able to marry until they have taken their first head.

Baseball Head Hunter

In baseball, a beanball is a pitch which is intentionally thrown at a batter’s head. Pitchers who are know to throw beanballs are know as Head hunters. A head hunter who throws a beanball rarely uses it as a strategic throw, most of the time it is thrown in anger and frustration. However batters who are facing known head hunters may alter their approach to hitting the ball in interest of self protection. In the history of major league baseball there has been only one player who has died after being hit by a head hunter, Indians shortstop Ray Chapman, who was hit by a beanball on August 16, 1920 and died twelve hours later.

Corporate Head Hunter

A head hunter is another name for an executive recruiter who usually operates as a third-party, whereas a recruiter who works in-house is known as Human Resources. The first person who described their profession as a ‘head hunter’ would have probably been using the term jokingly, well aware that their audience knew the normal (tribal) meaning of head hunting. However the headhunter name caught on due largely to the efforts of the people engaged in head hunting. Head hunters quite literally “pirate” the heads and key people of a corporation, leaving that corporation without their leadership, and core people – subsequently loping off the heads of the organization.

Four Other Famous Head Hunters

The Head Hunters is a professional wrestling tag team that consists of twin brothers Manuel and Victor Santiago

US 80th Fighter Squadron was nicknamed the Head Hunters after the local New Guinean Headhunter tribes who hated the Japanese and helped to rescue downed pilots

US 9th Cavalry Regiment is nicknamed the Head Hunters, because it was estimated to have been responsible for 50% of the enemy kills during the Vietnam War

The Head Hunters are a popular jazz-funk fusion band, best known for their albums they recorded with jazz keyboard player Herbie Hancock during the 1970s

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