04 June 2018

High Jinks and Jinx

If you start looking into the history of the term "high jinks", high jinks will ensue.

High jinks, also spelled hi-jinks and sometimes as hijinks, is defined as "boisterous or rambunctious carryings-on" or "carefree antics or horseplay."

It is a word I associate more with my parents and grandparents and was in popular usage in the mid-1900s.

'Hey-jinks' was a dice game in which one person would throw dice and have to complete a task—such as drinking all the liquor in a cup. The high in high jinks might have come from the drinking game aspect.

Originally, "jinks" was a dice game and references go all he way back to a 1683 English translation of Erasmus: "And as to all those Shooing-horns of drunkenness, the keeping every one his man, the throwing Hey-jinks, the filling of bumpers, the drinking two in a hand..."

This hey-jinks dice game of chance seems to have involved completing a task - maybe more of a dare or challenge and possibly something for the amusement of the group. It seems that the dice game itself fell away over the years and what remains was the dares that the game had inspired.

The word "jink" may be related to a Scottish verb jink that means "to move quickly or unexpectedly with sudden turns and shifts." This dodging action later meant "to trick or deceive" but by the time of that usage the high jinks usage was also around.

Jinks does not seem to have any connection to "jinx" which appears later in the language. The Online Etymology Dictionary states that 'jynx', meaning a charm or spell, was in usage in English as early as the 1690s. The Americanized spelling of "jinx" appears in 1911.

Jynx/jinx is traced to the 17th-century word jyng, meaning "a spell", and ultimately to the Latin word iynx (also spelled jynx, as in Latin 'j' and 'i' are the same letter). And that Latin word came from the Greek name of the bird iunx. This bird was associated with sorcery and was used in the casting of spells and in divination. The Ancient Romans and Greeks traced the bird's mythological origins to a sorceress named Iynx, who was transformed into this bird to punish her for a spell cast on the god Zeus.

In modern usage, a jinx is a superstition and folklore for a curse or the attribute of attracting bad or negative luck. Someone or something is said to be a jinx or to be jinxed if misfortune is associated with it.

This superstition shows up in sports. If a baseball pitcher is pitching a perfect game, it is considered a jinx to talk about it. Some people believe that pointing out a streak of particularly good fortune will "jinx it" and cause it to end.

Jinx is also a children's game that is initiated when at least two people say any same word or phrase at the same time. One of them then calls "jinx" on the other.

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