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Jinxing It

by Mark Edward, Nov 22 2008

As a blogger has mentioned, one of those pesky superstitions many people believe in is the old “jinxing” rigamarole. Jinxes are especially widespread in sports, politics or any field where there is intense competition. They are akin to curses, only apparently not just in the purview of witch doctors as they can affect the most innocent person or situation if not carefully avoided. Only specially crafted “counter-jinxes” can turn things around –  if you are a believer. Such nasty little nostrums are available at your local occult shop or corner botanica hoodoo vendor, but only if you literally buy into them.

I must confess that in the past even I have been prone to one of those more recent and certainly regional superstitious beliefs that has grown out of the Hollywood mythos. I’m not sure where I picked it up (it’s like an unwanted virus) but it probably came about from hanging around magicians, filmakers and other hopefuls who spend years waiting for that “break” and subsist in that narrow hinterland where one foot is in the door of a major studio while the other rests on a banana peel. It’s the odd belief that says that if you are in production of a film or television project or even in the earliest writing stages of an idea, talking about it will “jinx” it and it will never happen.

I suppose there is some validity to at least some parts of this assumption. In Hollywood, if you talk about anything vaguely original to anybody, the smallest kernel of a concept can be snatched up by some studio exec or writer and the naive greenhorn may risk seeing their dream turn up later on the big screen as a international blockbuster. Such things happen infrequently. This is probably where this contemporary urban superstition comes from. Maybe it’s even more sinister.  Any comment?

I’m now confessing publicly that I have carried around this absurd hypothesis in my head for quite some time and it dawned on me just how ridiculous this would be to continue to live with (even if it was at the far back of my brain) if I was going to do a serious program about skepticism. But there you have it folks. I have admitted it and now I’ll take what’s coming to me. But then admitting to a jinx and talking (or writing) about it must be a jinx too, right? Is this a counter jinx now and everything will be okay?  In my deep seated subconcious, have I written this blog as a counter jinx to insure the eventual picking up of SKEPTOLOGISTS as a viable finacially successful television series? I hope I haven’t made anyone too uneasy, buy hey, that’s my job!

There must be thousands of these jinxes out there. As skeptics, we need to ask why.  Commen sense says that fear and insecurity obviously play into these totally irrational beliefs, but it might be interesting to know just how deep this absurdity goes in our increasingly dumbed-down society. Does the guy with his finger on the button at the nuclear silo carry a rabbit’s foot to ward off his own jinxiness? Does our government screen for jinxes? Where do they draw the line between someone who is clumsy or a klutz and when someone officially becomes known as a full fledged jinx?

The good news is that when I became involved with THE SKEPTOLOGISTS, this feeling that I couldn’t talk about this project for the above reasons never took hold. Somehow I knew (we won’t call it a psychic feeling, let’s just say intuitively) that with this particular group of people, we couldn’t go wrong. So many great thinkers and such talent and energy has to find an outlet and it’s just a matter of time before it lands in its proper place. There’s no doubt in my mind on this and being trained as a magician I don’t trust anybody and I’m skeptical about everything. This is a venture whose time has come. We have a lot of work to do and a lot of heavy lifting has to be done to clear all that dumbed-downess back to a reasonable level of clarity and sanity that can put us back on the map of global clear-sightedness, but we have the tools and the vision to do it and do it right.

I’m talking about it. Spread the word!

15 Responses to “Jinxing It”

  1. llewelly says:

    It’s the odd belief that says that if you are in production of a film or television project or even in the earliest writing stages of an idea, talking about it will “jinx” it and it will never happen.

    If you talk about your plans for the future as little as possible, few know whether they fail or succeed.
    If you talk, people can remember what you talked about, and thus remember your failures. Keeping your mouth shut until something is a success has the result that people mostly only remember your successes. Think of it as the reputational version of confirmation bias.

    Of course the same process could apply to your own memory just as well.

    Does the guy with his finger on the button at the nuclear silo carry a rabbit’s foot to ward off his own jinxiness?

    I carried a rabbit’s foot for a few months as a child. Eventually it occurred to me that it hadn’t worked for the rabbit.

  2. I think we all at some time in our life have played into stupid little jinx things just because we want to be on the safe side. I used to and still do occasionally do the knock on wood thing, when I say something that I do not want to happen. This is very idiotic of course because we all know that knocking on wood makes no difference what so ever. So why do I do it? because somewhere in my mind even though I know it is illogical, my mind wants to be on the safe side. That is the same reason why athletes do there stupid little superstitions, because somewhere in all of our brains, we have been taught that it is something that makes us feel safe.

  3. Patrick says:

    Great! You Jinxed it!

    I ran into this just yesterday. A good friend of mine is a stage actress. Her new show was starting last night, and I told her “I’ve got my fingers crossed for you! Best of luck!”

    She responded “IT’S ‘BREAK A LEG’! God! I hope you didn’t jinx it!” It was said in all seriousness. She was actually quite mad at me for expressing that I hope she does well.

    (I later sent her a text massage wishing she’d break BOTH legs. :) )

    It’s funny though, I looked back at what *I* said. I didn’t really have my fingers crossed, of course. How many of our commonplace folk sayings have their origins in superstition but are now totally separate from their magical roots?

  4. Badger3k says:

    I’ve tried to keep that superstition out of my life, but I still catch myself doing it – a legacy of a lifetime inculturation. I did like the line from a recent Bones -Bones and Booth are going to a location, he has his gun drawn and she makes a comment. He says, “you’ll jinx me” and she replies that if he relies on superstition for protection, maybe she should carry the gun. Made me laugh.

  5. Brian says:

    I tend to view little superstitions (like not jinxing things) as a useful indulgence — sort of a prophylaxis against more serious woo. We’re all human; we all have certain irrational ideas deeply wired into our brains. So we give them a chance to play out in little things, to satisfy that part of our mind. (I know this wheat penny doesn’t really bring me luck, but carrying it around helps to quell my irrational thoughts.)

  6. ejdalise says:

    I believe the show Taxi has one episode where Elaine unwittingly jinxed a player she was seeing, and the team lost the game. She was then ostracized by strangers and friends alike. That was one of the first times I saw the other side of small superstitions.

    Since then, if I catch myself beginning to give some import to an article of clothing, a ritual, or some inanimate object, I force myself to purposefully deviate from the routine, or change clothing, or do whatever it takes to go against it. I want to prove to myself that whatever happens it’s not because I carry some artifact, but it’s the result of my actions. And I want to ensure I do not become a slave to the superstitions that support these actions

    I would suggest everyone follows the same path; fight your own superstitions first, or you cannot be of any use to anyone who might need your help.

  7. Ian Mason says:

    “Pride cometh before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall”
    (Old Testament) Hubris and Nemesis (Greek myths) There must be more out there somewhere. Some common human experience must be behind them.
    Perhaps as llewelly suggests, it’s a good tactic to keep quiet about something, as “the best laid plans of mice and men gang oft agley” (Robert Burns)
    The small rituals so common to many are surely a form of concentrating the mind before making a special effort and therefore simple, everyday psychology?
    And I confess, I won’t kill spiders – an old English superstition that’s part of my social inheritance from my Dad.

  8. Max says:

    Why is this particular superstition so powerful? I think it’s the fear of talking about something, and then seeing that very thing go bad. The apparent causal relationship is more specific than between, say, breaking a mirror and bad luck.

    But imagine if “jinxing” were believed to bring good luck instead of bad luck. Then, people wouldn’t shut up about their hopes.

    I wonder if there are more bad luck superstitions than good luck superstitions, due to our fear of loss.

  9. Gerry says:

    I work in entertainment, and I spend a lot of time with creative people. I’ve found that there are people who like to talk and talk about projects they want to do, but never do anything with the idea except talk about it. These people tend to be annoying, because ideas are a dime a dozen, but to actually take that idea and turn it into something substantial is rare. So maybe the jinx idea comes out of a sort of “put your money where your mouth is!” attitude.

  10. Mike says:

    I really enjoyed reading this posting. It reminded me of an article I just read in the American Psychological Science magazine, Observer, about why we believe in superstitions:

  11. Max says:

    Is it too early to mention Tecumseh’s Curse? I wouldn’t want to jinx Bush.

  12. Adam says:

    Has anyone done any theater work? I did some plays in high school and the drama coach absolutely flipped out when I mentioned Hamlet when I was on stage. She screamed, “ITS THE SCOTTISH PLAY”. The coach was an athiest and a very rational lady, but still had her old superstitions pertaining to acting. I had to stand on stage and recite the “Double, double, toil and trouble” bit backwards.
    Never say “Hamlet” in a theater, bad things will happen.

  13. Frank Paulson says:

    Not to nitpick, but THE SCOTTISH PLAY is MacBeth, Hamlet is set in Denmark (something rotten…).

    As a Cubs fan I know all about jinxes, curses, and all manner of bad luck. The town almost lynched a guy named Bartman(figuratively) over a supposed curse a few years back and they literally exploded a baseball (Mythbusters style) to end the jinx. Three and out this year, didn’t seem to work.

  14. Max says:

    Mike’s “Observer” article points out that John McCain has been very superstitious ever since he was a Navy pilot. Didn’t seem to work for him either then or now.

  15. bj says:

    jinxes are just a small insurance policy for us who cant stand that religious shite!