Author Archives: derekperren

Irish Purse Superstition

My informant’s Irish ancestry has a belief about women’s purses. It is seen as bad luck for a woman to leave her purse on the ground, even for a second. Many believe that setting one’s purse on the ground will cause all the money in that purse to “run away”, leaving the owner with nothing. According to my informant, taking care of one’s money is very important to the Irish people, and to set it down, leaving it out of one’s attention and control, is seen as practically throwing money away for the very reason that without a hold on one’s purse, it could easily get lost, or worse be stolen by someone taking advantage of one’s neglectfulness. It seems like putting one’s purse down is about as much bad luck as being ignorant is.

Knock-knock Joke – Amy Fisher

A. Knock Knock.
B. Who’s there?
A. Amy Fisher.
A. Amy Fishe…?
B. … BANG!
This was only a couple years after a girl named Amy Fisher went to the door of the house of a man named Joey Buttafuco, whom she was having an affair with. She asked him to leave his wife and when he refused she went to his house and shot his wife in the head. This can be an example of a kind of disaster joke, these are risky because for a certain time after the initial incident, people can find the joke inappropriate.

Laughter is good medicine.

This is a phrase my mom first told me when I was a young child. She used it when she would do or say something to cheer me up when I was feeling down, after which she would say, “Cheer up, laughter is good medicine.” From then on she always reminded me to have something in my day that would make me laugh, for she said it would actually make me feel physically better. Every once in a while when I was little, and I wanted to watch cartoons and my mom didn’t really want me to I would try to persuade her by saying, “But mom, laughter is good medicine.” That always made her chuckle a bit. The phrase actually came from the Bible, out of Proverbs 17:22. It says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” My mom also told me that she read in a medical journal that doctors will actually have patients watch or read funny material, and some how it actually makes them feel better.

…From my lips to God’s ears.

My informant told me that a friend of hers used to say this phrase as sort of a superstitious prayer. It was sort of the opposite of the knock on wood superstition. The way it worked was that whenever my informant’s friend would talk about her kids, or her grandkids, by saying, “little Timmy’s so talented, he’s gonna be a fine doctor some day.”, or, “ That kid’s got a great arm, he’s gonna be a great ballplayer one day.”, immediately after she would say, “From my lips to God’s.”
There’s no getting around the fact that parents want the best for their kids, and I don’t doubt that there are a number of other similar types of sayings throughout the world. As I said before this saying is very similar to the knock on wood superstition, however instead of trying to ward off bad fortune, “From my lips to God’s ears” attempts to bring good fortune.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

My informant once gave me this phrase as words of encouragement. He told me that he had used it many times for himself when he was faced with some difficult task or situation. He was a singer, and he also acted in plays, and when he was preparing for an audition he would use this phrase to ease his nerves and prepare him for the difficult competition against his peers. My informant did not know the precise origin of the saying, however he mentioned that he remembered that John F. Kennedy recited it in his inauguration address. I believe he used it to express the fact that the road to success for the United States was too long and difficult to expect immediate results, that patience be the key.


My informant talked about pitchers and their no-hitters. A no-hitter is the instance when a pitcher throws a complete game without letting one opposing hitter get on base by getting a hit. Most players will recognize if a pitcher has a no hitter going at around the middle of the game, about the sixth or seventh inning. According to my informant, it is bad luck, or a jinx on the pitcher to talk in the dugout about the pitcher’s prospective no-hitter. For example, for someone to look up at the scoreboard and notice the chance of a no-hitter and say something to someone like, “Hey, look at that he’s got a no-hitter going. You think he’ll do it?”, is believed that almost always the no-hitter will end right at that point. In fact, at the first sound of any no-hitter talk in the dugout, you can be sure that someone is going to strike it down very quickly.


My informant and I talked about a superstition that has been prevalent in college baseball for at least twenty-one years (since I’ve been alive). This superstition is called “Twos”. My informant explained that the actions that encompass Twos occur in a game when there are two balls, two strikes, and two outs, all at once. When this occurs, all the players in the dugout, usually both on the side of the offense and the defense, will in unison do something like rub the bill of their cap with their right hand until the pitch is thrown, or kneel down and pick up a but of dirt and throw it in the direction of the field as soon as the pitcher lets go of the ball. There is even a ritual called “The Radar” where all the players in the dugout hold out their hats toward the pitcher, as if it was a radar gun, while the pitcher throws the ball.

Since both sides of a ball game carry out these acts, there are two objectives. For the offense, the idea is to get the batter to a full count (which is three balls and two strikes instead of two balls and two strikes), or get him to get a hit. The defense’s objective then is just the opposite, and that’s to will the pitcher to a strikeout, ground out or pop up. This superstitious ritual is carried out by teams nationwide. See for yourself the next time the College World Series is on.

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

My mom repeatedly told me this phrase throughout my young childhood. It was usually when my sister and I would be fighting or have an argument. Sometimes I would be so angry with her, for what ever petty reason, and we would just go back and forth yelling and calling each other names. To get the initial arguing stopped, and curb the name calling, my mom would often sternly exclaim, “ Stop it right now! You know you’re not supposed to talk like that! If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

When my mom would say that to us our arguments would quickly come to an end. It just made sense, when she would say that I would quickly think to myself of anything I could say to my sister at that moment that was not malicious. Many times I would have to remain silent, but occasionally I could come up with something nice to say, and after that fighting just seemed stupid.

Annotation: This phrase can be found in the movie Bambi, by Walt Disney Productions (Which makes me think that’s where she got it from).

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

My informant first heard the phrase from her husband about twenty years ago. The two of them were in their car in the parking lot of a shopping center looking for a space to park in. The parking lot was quite full, and my informant was getting impatient, as they had been driving around looking for a space for some time. Finally the husband came upon a parking space deep in the back of the parking lot. My informant did not want to have to walk that far to the store, so she told her husband to continue looking for a space closer to the store she wanted to go to. At this, the husband told my
informant, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

The husband used this analogy to explain that even though the spot they found was not the bast spot, continuing to search for a closer spot that didn’t exist at the time was not wise because there were no guarantees that they would ever actually find that closer spot. In other words, the spot they had was better than the prospective closer spot that wasn’t available.

Annotation: This phrase can be found in the Living Bible Version of the Bible in Ecclesiastes 6:9.

Pride goes before a fall.

This phrase was first told to me by mom when I was about eight or nine. She continues to remind me of even now, at the age of twenty-one. She can always tell when I’m beginning to get a swelled ego, and she will quickly bring me back down to earth with this phrase. As I have had success in baseball, there are times when things are going so well on the field that it can make one feel like he’s invincible; like he can do no wrong. At times like that my mom will hit me with the phrase “Remember, the Bible says, ‘Pride goes before a fall.’ Always give all the glory to God.”

This proverb likely carries most of it’s weight in religious circles, because it actually comes from the book of Proverbs in the Bible. In the religious sense, many believe that pridefulness leads to sin and destruction because it will cause a person to rely on himself or herself rather than relying on God.

Annotation: This proverb can be found in the Bible in the book of Proverbs 16:18.