Tag Archives: Silverware

Silverware Superstition

Background: M is an American who grew up in New York and remembers her very traditional and conservative Grandma having a superstition about dropping cutlery.


M : “My Grandma would always do this strange thing during family gatherings when someone accidentally dropped silverware on the ground. She would yell, ‘Company’s coming!’, since it was supposed to be a sign that guests were on their way.”

Interviewer: “Can you think of any possible reasoning for why she would say this?”

M: “I have no clue where it came from, but she’d always say it at any family gathering. Oh, and supposedly if it were a knife, the guest would be male; if it were a fork, it would be a woman. She also mentioned that if the utensil faced the front door, the guest would be someone you really want to see or someone you haven’t really seen in a while… but, if it faced the back door, it would be an unwanted guest. I remember feeling scared when someone dropped a utensil pointing to the back… it was somewhat terrifying.”


This superstition could potentially reflect the burden of the traditional American housewife and the stress of maintaining a neat and hospitable household at all times. One small mistake, like a dropped utensil, instills fear of a sudden unexpected visitor and creates the urgency to immediately correct the imperfections to evade societal judgment. As a traditional American housewife, M’s grandma likely felt the pressure to uphold a nice and tidy home at all times. This superstition likely reflected these pressures and the pressure experienced when having to accommodate guests–welcome or unwelcome.

Dropping cutlery brings guests

Informant – “If you are handling cutlery…flatware…if you drop a fork you can expect a visit from a woman. If you drop a knife, expect a man. If you drop a spoon, expect a child. And if you drop a bunch of silverware expect a bunch of people”

Informant – “I heard it from my mother. It’s just a superstition. I never felt that it was true. Although, you know, it could be that, when you are setting formal tables and all, it’s for feast days. And if you drop something during feast time, you are expecting people anyways. Sort of a self fulfilling thing.”

The association with knives and men is probably intentional (men are traditionally the warriors). And young children are usually spoon fed, so that association also makes sense. I’m not sure why women are linked to forks. It could just be the only item left.