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Jinx! You Owe Me a Book!

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You know how when two people accidentally say the same thing simultaneously, they then race to yell Jinx!? There may be hundreds of versions of this game. Anne and her young daughter Amina in Jacksonville, Florida, say versions they’ve heard include having to “break” the jinx by knocking on wood, or saying one person’s name three times before the other can speak. They’ve also heard Jinx! followed by Pinch or a poke, you owe me a coke or You owe me a soda or You owe me a coconut. Other versions include racing to count to 10, or shaking hands and turning around, or reciting Needles, pins, buffalo skins / What goes up the chimney? Smoke! or Red, blue, needles, pins / Shakespeare Longfellow. Other versions of that last one substitute different poets, such as Keats. The word jinx comes to us from Ancient Greek via Latin, and originally referred to a kind of magical bird called a wryneck. In their classic 1959 work The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (Bookshop|Amazon), Iona and Peter Opie report that in parts of the UK, children fall completely silent, then say White rabbits! or You’ll get a letter tomorrow or Touch wood and whistle! Another great resource for such play among children is Duncan Emrich’s The Whim-Wham Book (Bookshop|Amazon). This is part of a complete episode.

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