Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Jinx

How many of you watching a ball game, it’s late in the 7th inning and the pitcher has soundly trounced each batter to a rumba rhythm… one-two-threestrikesyourout. Not one batter has come even close to the ball. Could it be……..? Am I going to see this extraordinary event? NO DON’T SAY THE WORDS!.

Then, the announcer in a hushed voiced says with ultimate confidence, “ I think he’s on his way to a perfect game”.


Why did he say THAT! He’s JINXED it!

And the next batter hits a Texas league hit that doesn’t deserve to make an appearance and drops into shallow right field.

It happens every time.

How many of you have a sweet deal in the works, but you don’t tell anybody because you don’t want to Jinx it.

Isn’t the word terrific?


I wondered where the word jinx comes from, and because it has such resonance in baseball, I thought it might come from the slang of baseball. Whether I am right or wrong is subject to debate, but it seems I’m leaning on the historically correct side.

World Wide Words describes the introduction of Jinx into the American lexicon.
”It does look odd, and its origin is in dispute. Explaining why is going to need a moment, since along the way we must take in the Ancient Greeks, the study of birds, witchcraft, nineteenth century vaudeville and the history of baseball.”

“First, the firm facts. The word jinx, in the sense of a thing or person that brings bad luck, is first recorded as sports slang from the US in the early years of the twentieth century. Most of the early American citations relate to baseball — for example, The Jinx: Stories of the Diamond by Allen Sangree of 1910 and Christy Mathewson’s Pitching at a Pinch of 1912, in which he says: “A jinx is something which brings bad luck to a ball player”. From there it spread out into standard American English and later to other varieties of the language.”

In the context of Baseball and things, which are, yet to come to fruition, the word Jinx refers to “tempting fate” to such a degree that failure is assured.

From Wikipedia’s entry on Jinx: “The superstition is sometimes used when talking about a future event with too much confidence. A statement like "We're sure to win the contest!" can be seen as a jinx by tempting fate. After such a statement, failure would be ironic. For the human mind, the irony makes it all the more likely. This therefore brings bad luck: it is a "jinx".”
Then, of course there’s the scenario as children when we say the same thing at exactly the same time.


I’m not sure of the etiquette of this game having never played it, but you can find it here. I’m of the opinion that this is a girls game, but La tells me no. I have only anecdotal evidence that my view is true, La however tells me she has empircal evidence.
The American Heritage Dictionary offers a rather dry definition of the term Jinx. It gives no sense of the term.

But it appears to have a military aspect as well, much like ‘FUBAR’, ‘SNAFU’ and “Older than dirt”.

“Barry Popik of the American Dialect Society suggests that the word should be traced back to an American folksong called Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines, which was first popular in 1868.

One verse in one version goes:
The first day I went out to drill
The bugle sound made me quite ill,
At the Balance step my hat it fell,
And that wouldn't do for the Army.
The officers they all did shout,
They all cried out, they all did shout,
The officers they all did shout,
"Oh, that's the curse of the Army."

The reference to various misfortunes and a curse lend plausibility to this explanation.”

Murphy’s Law.

1 comment:

amalthea said...

No, it's not just a girl's game. James jinxs me all the time. It's like... owe me a ~blank~!

I think I must owe him about 395 slurpees by now. I haven't payed up.