Superstition/Folk Belief

Superstition- If your nose itches that means that someone is thinking of you or talking about you.

Annie was told this by her mother, who was told by her mother.  I am unsure if this matrilineal transmission of the superstition/belief has any significance.  It is possible that since the traditional role of the mother is to raise children and teach them how to behave well and become successful members of society, it may also the job of the mother to also pass along cultural superstitions and beliefs as part of a child’s informal education.  However, it is just as possible that Annie’s mom and her grandmother passed on the superstition randomly and not because they felt it was important to teach their children about the belief.

The context of this belief is clear; if you tell someone your nose itches, they might tell you that someone is thinking/ talking about you.  The reasons why someone would say this is less obvious.  One reason might be that people want to bring as much structure to their lives as possible, including strange bodily functions.  If someone’s nose inexplicably itches, the idea that someone is thinking of them might be reassuring.  Also, it gives people a sense of control that they can explain what is going on inside themselves and in their lives, so believing in this superstition adds to that sense of control and knowledge of one’s body.

I have heard this superstition before, but a slightly different version.  I have been told by friends that if your ears are ringing, someone is thinking/talking about you, and that if your nose itches, you are going to kiss a fool.  The different versions of the superstition illustrate how these superstitions are not grounded in verifiable fact and can easily be altered and still sound correct.  And since these superstitions cannot really be proven, they continue to exist and be passed on to other people.  Also, belief in these superstitions is strengthened if the saying actually comes true- if someone’s nose itches, and then a friend calls and says “Hi, I was just thinking of you and decided to call…”, that will reinforce a person’s belief even if it may have been a pure coincidence.