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Bread and Butter, Come to Supper

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Samantha, a Latin teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio, is curious about why some people say bread and butter after two people walking together pass by on either side of an object in their path or try to avoid being split. (An example occurs in a 1960 episode of “The Twilight Zone,” starring William Shatner.) This practice derives from an old belief that evil spirits or the Devil himself could take various forms and come between people physically, causing the two to quarrel later or have bad luck. Phrases such as bread and butter, milk and cheese, or bread and butter, come to supper, supposedly can be invoked to preserve that togetherness. As early as the 4th century C.E., St. Augustine of Hippo alludes to this superstition in his De Doctrina Christiana (Bookshop|Amazon). Among Black speakers of American English, a similar idea is reflected in the admonition don’t split the pole. This is part of a complete episode.

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