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James Callow Folklore Archive

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The James T. Callow Folklore Archive

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The phrase "knock on wood" originates from Ireland
in a time when people believed in fairies, trolls
and gnomes. It was believed that gnomes resided in
anything wooden and that they were cruel and
mischievous. When a person spoke of good times or good things
then they must knock on the wood to make sure that
the gnomes didn't hear them or to scare them away.
They believed that the gnomes would bring bad luck
on the optimist who spoke.

Submitter comment: The informant heard this from her grandfather whose
father was from Ireland.

Where learned: TENNESSEE ; Black Kettle

Subject headings: BELIEF -- Fairy Elf Goblin Gnome
BELIEF -- Plant
BELIEF -- Bad luck
SPEECH -- Gesture

Date learned: 00001970S

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