DK is a junior at the University of Southern California, originally from Denver, CO.
DK shared stories with me about folklore at her school in Denver:
“I remember the biggest thing in middle school was getting to drink soda at lunch. They sold cans in the cafeteria of like, Sprite and Coke, and sometimes Dr. Pepper, and we’d all get soda to drink at lunch. Once we were done, we’d all go in a circle and wiggle the tabs back and forth while going through the alphabet…when the soda tab fell off, whatever letter you landed on was the first initial of your crush. And then we’d all flip out trying to decide who everyone’s crush was.”
This ritual is found all over schools everywhere, with kids of all ages. At a time when they are changing the ways they socially interact with one another, in more romantic or sexual means, it’s a cute and interesting way of sharing those feelings with your friends. Other variations I’ve heard of include twisting an apple stem until it breaks, or reciting the alphabet while jump-roping. Most importantly this seems to be a group ritual – if you were drinking soda or eating an apple alone, you wouldn’t necessarily do this to see you your crush was.
“Jinx you owe me a soda.”
If you say the same word or phrase as another person, you would say the phrase shown above to them. Jinx means you aren’t allowed to talk, and you have to give them a soda or they have to say your name three times. My informant said that it means nothing to him, just a game. Fun to play with little kids.
My respondent recalls learning it as a kid in elementary school, but now he says it when he’s with his little cousins.
I’m curious to learn more about the origin of this game/saying. I wonder what exactly jinx is referring to, and whether or not it has anything to do with jins. Otherwise, it seems like a fun little game that kids “play” without getting too serious about it. I’ve personally never see anyone actually follow through with the rules.
I was discussing with my mother via skype about home remedies that she knew of, or that her mother used to do for her and her siblings when they were sick.
Me: I remember you once saying that your mother had a couple of home remedies that she would use with you when you would get sick, yeah?
Informant: There were certain things –
Informant: M’kay. There were certain things that mom did when we were sick, especially when we were sick to our stomach. First of all, she would give us 7-Up.
Informant: Cause 7-Up she believed would settle our stomachs. To this day I despise 7-Up.
Me: And, why 7-Up?
Informant: And another thing she did, was to put us to bed with a bath towel.
Informant: And the whole idea of that, well the idea behind that was actually quite practical because my bedroom was pretty far from the bathroom, and if I had to throw up and I couldn’t make it to the bathroom, mom wanted my to be throwing up into the towel. But, for me, that towel ended up being very very comforting; and I used to kind of snuggle that at night when I wasn’t feeling good and it made me feel better just having it.
Me: Is that where I got Magic Towel from?
Informant: That’s why you got Magic Towel.
Informant: From my memory.
Informant: Because when you were little, you had an upset stomach one night and I didn’t have any medicine that either you would take or I could give to you. And so I gave you that towel and I told you that it was a magic towel and that if you hugged it real, real tight all night then you would feel better in the morning.
Informant: And the next morning, you felt better and you looked at me and said, “I have a new B.” ‘Cause that’s what you used to call all your blankets. And you put it at the bottom of your bed and Magic Towel stayed with you longer than any other B.
Me: Despite having lost it multiple times and having to replace it.
Informant: Well you’ve only lost it once I think
Me: No, it was more than that. I think it was at least twice.
Informant: Could be. I remember that it got left in the Dallas airport once.
Me: Yeah, I remember that one.
Informant: Not on my watch.
Me: Not on mine.
Informant: It was daddy. Daddy help – let you forget it. So does this help?
Me: Yeah, mama. Thanks.
When hearing this story, and especially about the taking the bath towel to bed, I realized that there is a reason why these folk remedies are passed down. It is because they work. Whether they are born from practicality or herbal medicine, if they work, then they are remembered and passed down to the next generation. Now, 7-Up, like many other sodas (including Coca-Cola), was originally created as a medicine, and it is highly likely that my grandparent’s generation believed such sodas to actually do what they were advertised to do. With the bath towel, though born of practicality, it was the belief that my mother had that it would work to cure an upset stomach that made it work. It is an example of the placebo effect. Also, the fact that my mother used this remedy for me, and that it worked, shows that such remedies, over time, can become family traditions, or traditional remedies within a family. I still sleep with magic towel, and I have never gotten sick in bed since my mother first handed me a towel. We may have had to replace the actual towel a couple of times, but it wasn’t the towel that was important, it was the concept of the magic towel and the belief that it worked that mattered.
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“So this is something I’ve noticed whenever I have a headache or when I just feel bad, I’ll just go to 7-11 or wherever sells soft drinks and I’ll get a coke and drink a whole bottle of coke. So just a habit. Makes me feel better.”
Soda has been used as a folk remedy of sorts for quite some time now. It seems popular enough that it has been featured on the show South Park in an episode called “Red Man’s Greed” in which people drink chicken soup and Sprite to get over SARS. This is a fitting folk remedy in the United States as we consume more soda per capita than any other country. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that carbonated sugary drinks have become a part of our cultural tapestry.
However, recent research claims Coca-Cola can aid in the dissolution of gastric bezoars. The acidic nature of soft drinks can serve as a first-line treatment for indigestible substances.
Perhaps my informant once had a stomach ache and drank coke, only to realize his symptoms lessened. As a result, he associates coke with a minor remedy for various pains.
Ladas, S.D., Kamberoglou, D., Karamanolis, G., Vlachogiannakos, J., and I. Zouboulis-Vafiadis. (2012) “Systematic review: Coca-Cola can effectively dissolve gastric phytobezoars as a first-line treatment.” Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 37(2):169-173.
As a child, my source first heard this superstition because he was rather clumsy and would always drop his soda cans. He first instance he can remember where he practiced this superstition was with his teammates from his little league baseball team. All of his teammates would tap on the tops of their soda cans under any condition, just to be sure to limit the fizz. My source suggested that this could have been a popular trend shared by his teammates or the result of several players being chewed out by their parents for spilling soda on their uniforms.
My source doesn’t quite understand how the superstition works, but is assured that it’s effective. After tapping the top of his soda cans he has rarely ever had a spill. If he had to guess, he supposes that when the can is tapped, carbonation bubbles stuck to the side of the can are nudged to the top of the can, and when the can is opened, the gas is released without dragging any liquid out with it. My source has also heard of a ‘three-tap method,’ where the can needs to be tapped only three times, but he is not sure where he heard this.
Scientifically, when a can is dropped, the carbon dioxide that carbonates the soda is forced out of the liquid and into a gas form which builds pressure in the can. If the can is opened soon after, the pressure will be released and the gas will rush out, dragging the soda with it. If somebody taps on a soda can, that’s an added disturbance, which would likely cause more of the carbon dioxide to be freed from the liquid, so the superstition should not work. What does work is waiting for the pressure to be reduced. After a drop, given time, the carbon dioxide will assimilate back into the liquid, reducing the pressure and fizz when the can is opened. Also, because of the built up pressure, the rate at which one opens a can is significant because it regulates the speed any carbon dioxide is released. Finally, there is a theory that if you tap a can with a metal rod, it will create a vibration in the aluminum can that will cause all of the gas to move to the top of the can, reducing potential fizz, but this method isn’t proven.
From my own personal experience, I have experienced good results after I’ve tapped the top of my dropped soda can, but I cannot attribute it to the superstition. I believe that by tapping the top of the soda can, you’re spending more time not opening the can. As long as you’re tapping, the soda can isn’t opened, and this gives the carbon dioxide more time to be pushed back into the liquid.
Annotation: A variant of this superstition is featured in episode 513 (My Five Stages) of Bill Lawrence’s NBC sitcom Scrubs as the “John Dorian three-tap method. Three taps and the foam goes bye-bye.” The character, JD, then opens the can, and after a pause, all hell breaks loose and foam flies everywhere.