Definitions

Jinx

Jinx

[jingks]
A jinx, in popular superstition and folklore, is:

  • A sort of curse placed on a person that makes them prey to large numbers of minor misfortunes and other forms of bad luck;
  • A person afflicted with a similar curse, who, while not directly subject to a series of misfortunes, seems to attract them to anyone in his general area.
  • An object or animal that brings bad luck.
  • A common slang term used when two people say the same thing at the same time (said as a game amongst the young and young hearted which suggests some kind of spooky supernatural interference).
    • The person who calls jinx must say the name of the person receiving the jinx before the jinx is lifted. ie, If Maya and Phill say the same thing, and Maya calls 'jinx!" she must say Phill's name before Phill can speak again. If Phill says anything before the jinx is returned, he will owe Maya a coke, or Maya can seek retribution through punching Phill in the arm.

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". The event itself is referred to as "jinxed".

Origins

The etymology of the word is obscure.

  • It may come from Latin iynx, that is, the wryneck bird, which has occasionally been used in magic and divination and is remarkable for its ability to twist its head almost 180 degrees while hissing like a snake. The Jinx bird is found in Africa and Eurasia.
  • It may be the plural of jink treated as singular.

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.

The Online Etymology Dictionary entry for jinx states that the word was first used, as a noun, in American English in 1911. It traces it to a 17th century word jyng, meaning "a spell", and ultimately to the Latin word iynx

In sports

The earliest use of the word "jinx" to refer to something other than the bird seems to have been in the context of baseball; in short story The Jinx (1910) (later collected in the book The Jinx: Stories of the Diamond (1911)), Allen Sangree wrote
"By th' bones of Mike Kelly, I'll do it! Yes, sir, I'll hoodoo th' whole darned club, I will. I'll put a jinx on 'em or my name ain't Dasher, an' that goes!"
And again..
But the ball players instantly knew the truth. "A jinx, a jinx," they whispered along the bench. "Cross-eyed girl sittin' over there back o' third. See her ? She's got Th' Dasher. Holy smoke, look at them eyes!"

Like the discreet and experienced manager he was, McNabb did not chasten his men in this hour of peril. He treated the matter just as seriously as they, condoling with The Dasher, bracing up the Yeggman, execrating the jinx and summoning all his occult strategy to outwit it. "

and later referenced in Pitching at a Pinch (1912), Christy Mathewson explained that "a jinx is something which brings bad luck to a ball player." Baseball's most common "jinx" belief is that talking about a pitcher's ongoing no-hitter will cause it to be ended.

In blues lyrics

African American blues songs make many mentions of jinxes, far more than are found in Anglo-American usage. As in earlier sports references, it may be spelled jinks, and some blues singers treat the word as a plural ("these jinks"):
*Papa Charlie Jackson sang in 1926 that a "bad luck woman is a jinx and a worry too.
*Blind Lemon Jefferson recorded a song in 1928 in which he said "that brown in Chicago have put that jinx bug on me.
*Blind Blake complained in 1928 about his woman that "she done put them jinx on me
*Buddy Moss recorded "Jinks Man Blues" in 1934, with the lyrics, "I'm just a mistreated man, and the jinx is on poor me.
*Peetie Wheatstraw was in double trouble in 1934 as he sang, "Last Sunday I had the blues, last Monday night I had the jinx. and in 1936 he complained "Somebody's put a jinx on me, oh well, well, and I can't have no luck at all.
*Bo Carter, a Mississippian, claimed in 1936 that his girlfriend was so powerful that "she can stand in Memphis, man, and put the jinx on me.
*Johnnie Temple had better luck, for he sang about his girlfriend, "Jinkie Lee", who took the jinx off of him.
*Will Weldon sang, "Well, the jinx on me, I can't see the reason why; but seem like these jinx sure oughta pass me by.
*Charley Jordan recorded in 1936, "I woke up this mornin', baby, with the jinx all over me.
*Son House recorded the definitive two-part "Jinx Blues" in 1942, beginning with the line, "I woke up this morning with the jinx all around my bed.
*Gabriel Brown sang in 1945, "I can't have no luck at all, the jinx is on me.

References

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