LC: “What we always said when I was a kid was that if you dropped- when you dropped a knife on the floor, somebody would say, ‘oh, that means a man is coming for dinner.’ And if you dropped a fork, that meant, ‘oh, a woman’s coming to dinner.’ It was my job to empty the dishwasher, and to set the table with silverware and stuff. And I don’t know if anybody ever told me this, but I sort of extrapolated that if you dropped a spoon, it meant a kid was coming to dinner. I would drop spoons now and then in hopes of generating some visitors. It worked.”
Was this just your family or was it a more widespread belief?
LC: “I don’t feel like it- it wasn’t just us. It was definitely something I feel like other kids did. I would think it was regional, I don’t think it was like a family thing, like from one side of the family or the other. I feel like it was something that came from my sisters rather than my parents. You know, a lot of things in our family came from my dad and his Boy Scout stuff, but I don’t think that did.”
Background: LC grew up in Connecticut. This belief was held by many of her peers, including her older sisters. She does not hold this belief anymore, simply due to outgrowing it.
Context: This ritual, as it were, is performed when setting the table for dinner, or otherwise handling silverware.
This belief both reflects a superstition about dropping silverware having seemingly unrelated consequences, as well as an intentional ritual which takes advantage of this superstition to try and invoke the consequences. I find it interesting that in this superstition, clumsiness is connected to a neutral or even beneficial consequence, rather than to a negative consequence. For example, spilling salt leads to bad luck, unless you negate it by throwing salt over your shoulder. Because the clumsy act in this case leads to a consequence which LC saw as positive, she was motivated to intentionally drop spoons from time to time.