Informant: So let me tell you about “New Pinch.” All the children, like all of the children in India, when we grew up, any time you wear – wear new clothes, your friends or family or anybody will see you and they’ll, you know, they’ll say, “Oh new clothes!” Then they’ll pinch you and say “New Pinch!” And you’re supposed to say thank you, otherwise they’ll keep pinching.
Interviewer: So saying thank you is the only way to get them to stop.
Interviewer: Is it one thank you for everyone pinching you or just one is good enough?
Informant: No, it has to be one specific thank you for each person. So yeah this is something that everyone I knew did as a kid. Even know, you know, I still do it all the time so I guess it’s imprinted. I don’t know maybe it’s because we always wore uniforms to school if someone had a new piece of clothing or whatever that we saw them in, it was much more of a big deal than it would be here. But I’m not sure, that’s just an idea.
The informant is my mother, an Indian woman who was born and raised in northern India (Delhi) and moved to the US over two decades ago. This tradition is something she’s done since being a child, something that’s part of her culture. As her own child, I have personally been the victim of it many times, often after receiving clothes from her.
I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my mom if she had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones she shared with me.
This reminds me a lot of birthday punches. Birthday punches, if you’re unfamiliar, are definitely an American custom but it could be done elsewhere as well. My experience with it definitely peaked in middle school and I feel like the boys did it much more than the girls. Essentially, if it was your birthday, you would get punched, usually on the arm, once for every year of age you had. Boys would often chase each other down and they would not hold back at all.
Similarly, “New Pinch” has that aspect of introducing pain when something good is happening to someone such as getting new clothes. It feels like a way for a person to remind the person who has the new clothes that they’re not so special, that other people still have to be acknowledged (in this case, with a thanks). Additionally it’s interesting that “New Pinch” is always said English, despite originating in India. It could be that the people who get new clothes semi-regularly are those with the money or status to be able to attend a good school that teaches good English. So it acts as a sort of class indicator.