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Folklore: Forbidden or unlucky words?

The Shambles 21 May 99 - 02:27 PM
Den 21 May 99 - 03:00 PM
Bert 21 May 99 - 03:17 PM
Fadac 21 May 99 - 03:42 PM
SeanM 21 May 99 - 04:29 PM
Fadac 21 May 99 - 05:22 PM
Ronn 21 May 99 - 05:50 PM
Bobby Bob, Ellan Vannin 21 May 99 - 07:58 PM
Mo 21 May 99 - 08:14 PM
The Shambles 22 May 99 - 05:51 AM
Penny S. 22 May 99 - 08:48 AM
Sapper_RE 22 May 99 - 03:05 PM
Rick Fielding 22 May 99 - 03:26 PM
The Shambles 22 May 99 - 06:20 PM
Rick Fielding 22 May 99 - 11:09 PM
alison 23 May 99 - 12:41 AM
Bert 25 May 99 - 09:39 AM
AndyG 25 May 99 - 09:54 AM
Bert 25 May 99 - 10:17 AM
KingBrilliant 25 May 99 - 10:38 AM
The_one_and_only_Dai 25 May 99 - 11:31 AM
Barbara 25 May 99 - 12:39 PM
25 May 99 - 12:48 PM
Penny S 25 May 99 - 02:03 PM
Terry 25 May 99 - 03:15 PM
John OSh 25 May 99 - 06:11 PM
bill\sables 25 May 99 - 06:50 PM
Mark Roffe 25 May 99 - 10:04 PM
lloyd61 26 May 99 - 01:50 AM
Steve Parkes 26 May 99 - 08:02 AM
The Shambles 26 May 99 - 01:39 PM
Fadac 27 May 99 - 10:27 AM
GUEST 14 Aug 01 - 05:26 AM
Murray MacLeod 14 Aug 01 - 07:00 AM
Uncle_DaveO 14 Aug 01 - 01:02 PM
Jack the Sailor 14 Aug 01 - 01:42 PM
The Walrus at work 14 Aug 01 - 02:06 PM
running.hare 14 Aug 01 - 02:34 PM
vindelis 14 Aug 01 - 03:11 PM
Jim Dixon 21 Nov 11 - 12:09 AM
Mysha 21 Nov 11 - 09:08 AM
grumpy al 21 Nov 11 - 10:23 AM
GUEST,leeneia 22 Nov 11 - 10:09 AM
GUEST,c.g. 22 Nov 11 - 10:18 AM
A Wandering Minstrel 23 Nov 11 - 08:12 AM
Jim Dixon 23 Nov 11 - 10:51 AM
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Subject: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: The Shambles
Date: 21 May 99 - 02:27 PM

On The Isle Of Portland, here in Dorset UK, we have a word that is not spoken, at least by locals, as it is considered to be unlucky. I think and hope it is safe to type the word into cyberspace, so here goes the word is RABBIT.

There is a story that it has something to do with the 'Little Furry Things' burrowing into and undermining quarry waste and causing land-slips, but no one seems to be too sure what the reason is. You find yourself using silly words like 'Wilfreds', 'Long-Ears', 'Bunnies' and my favourite, as no one here appears to mind eating them, 'Underground-Mutton'.

It does tend not to be taken too seriously, but I have detected a real concern and discomfort among the older inhabitants, when the word is used.

I read somewhere recently that as part of a process of changing the Easter Festival from it's 'pagan' roots and along with other things, that the deeply symbolic hare was substituted with the 'fluffy Easter bunny and wondered if this could be a factor here? Not that I am to sure if the hare ever existed on this small island, it certainly does not do so now.

Any help on this will be much appreciated and I would also be interested in similar 'forbidden' words and situations.


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Den
Date: 21 May 99 - 03:00 PM

Hi Shambles, maybe this superstition fits in this thread I don't know. I used to go drinking with a bunch of friends in Belfast who smoked. The tradition there is that everyone will offer each other cigarettes from their pack in turn. I noticed that the third person to accept a light for his cigarette would blow out the match and relight a new one. When I asked why they did this I was told that it was bad luck to accept the third light. Apparantly, so the story goes, during the first world war some soldiers were in a trench and were offering around cigarettes. One soldier lit a match and lit each of his comrades cigarettes in turn. However a sniper saw the lighted match and was able to pick his target and shot the third soldier as his cigarette was being lit.


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Bert
Date: 21 May 99 - 03:17 PM

Yes, I've heard that one Den. I've never heard about the bunnies though.

There is no BS in this thread I see it as 100% folklore. Good one Shambles.

There is a theory around here that babies are contagious - just touch one and you'll get one in your family.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Fadac
Date: 21 May 99 - 03:42 PM

Well, guns, abortions, and whales, seem to be hot buttons right now. Hmmm, lets abort the whale hunt, shoot the underground mutton and have a BBQ.


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: SeanM
Date: 21 May 99 - 04:29 PM

As to 'Three on a match'... It is a valid superstition on the battlefield. The versions I hear request that it be no more than two, as by the time the third person lights, there was a substantial chance that the 'enemy' would be able to spot the flame at night.

Something that is dying out, but in the Navy a lot of people are very nervous about anything to do with shipwrecks... like attracting like and all...

M


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Fadac
Date: 21 May 99 - 05:22 PM

In the old days, wistling on deck was considered bad luck. You were wistling up a storm.


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Ronn
Date: 21 May 99 - 05:50 PM

Shambles---I doubt that this is in any way related to your bit of folklore, but for as long as I can remember until my father passed away, my parents would say "Rabbit Rabbit" to each other on the first day of every month. I thought everybody did this until I nearly a teenager. To this day I dont know what it was all about.


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Bobby Bob, Ellan Vannin
Date: 21 May 99 - 07:58 PM

From the Scandinavian tradition in the Isle of Man there are a number of 'haf' names which were never used at sea. A priest was a 'black coat'; a cat was a 'scratcher'; a hare was 'fer ny cleayshyn liauyr' - the one with the long ears.

The one that is known very much in current Manx tradition is the R - A - T. Strangely enough, in the country areas, where they were a pest, children used to be paid to see the buggers off, and there was no difficulty about using the word, R - A - T.

However, over the past 50 years, the old fishermen's 'haf' name superstition about that three letter word has taken over, and it's definitely considered not the thing to use it.

'Long tails' is the most common way of referring to them, from the Manx Gaelic, 'fer y famman liauyr' - the one with the long tail.

However, on the north of the Island, in Ramsey, 'ringies' is the most-used word for them.

I don't know what that adds to anything, but it's a very strong thing in modern Manx life.

Shoh slaynt,

Bobby Bob


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Mo
Date: 21 May 99 - 08:14 PM

When we were implementing new kit at work last year my boss banned the word "Nightmare" because we were using it about so much of the project - it became "challenge". Mind you, we heard him say it too....

In the RN there is a course heading which you never put a ship on as it is the same number as the form used for reporting collisions/groundings etc. Can't remember what it is(which may prove a bit unfortunate...) - though I'm pretty sure Bert will know!

Mo


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: The Shambles
Date: 22 May 99 - 05:51 AM

The fishermen who in their small boats set off from Chiswell, on Chesil Beach, will not do so without a stone with a hole in it, on board. Some of them quite large (the stones not the fishermen).


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Penny S.
Date: 22 May 99 - 08:48 AM

Good thing they've got a lot to choose from, isn't it? And I should have put a comma in that cat title, shouldn't I?


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Sapper_RE
Date: 22 May 99 - 03:05 PM

Always thought that "rabbits" in Navy slang was something to do with either souveniers or work done in Navy time for your own use. Bob


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 22 May 99 - 03:26 PM

Don't say "MacBeth" backstage in a theatre filled with actors! I did - and I payed for it!


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: The Shambles
Date: 22 May 99 - 06:20 PM

Rick

How exactly?


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 22 May 99 - 11:09 PM

Well first of all Sham, I'm not an actor of course. I get hired occasionally in plays where the script calls for a character who plays an instrument. When they've exhausted the search for an actor/musician, they go for a musician/ sort-of actor. One night during the play "Desire Under the Elms" while waiting with two others backstage for our cue, I foolishly said "When did that old superstition about "MacBeth" die out?" Both actors gave me dirty looks and pushed me through the nearest door - told me to turn around three times and ask permission to come back! We had to be on stage in about a minute and they STILL insisted on the ritual. Later they said they knew it was silly but "Why take chances?"
People are strange.


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: alison
Date: 23 May 99 - 12:41 AM

Hi Rick,

I've done that too and mentioned "The Scottish play" inside a theatre..... my actor friends stuck their fingers in their ears turned round a few times and spat.

Weird people.....

slainte

alison


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Bert
Date: 25 May 99 - 09:39 AM

Mo,

I've not heard of that one.

"Rabbits" is Cockney rhyming slang for "crutch" whic Americans call "crotch". The Two Ronnies did a "Rock Song" spoof one time and the one memorable line was "He's got bad habits, he don't clean out his rabbits" I don't think many people caught the meaning though.

When we were kids, on the first day of the month we'd say (With appropriate actions of course) "A pinch and a punch for the first day of the month"
There were a couple responses to this, "A pinch and a kick for being so quick" and "A punch in the eye for being so sly"

In Youth Hostelling circles in the fifties & sixties a mens room was refered to as George the lafdies of course being Georgina.

Bert


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: AndyG
Date: 25 May 99 - 09:54 AM

OK I'll bite.
Bert,
What does rabbits rhyme with ?

AndyG


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Bert
Date: 25 May 99 - 10:17 AM

Hutch


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: KingBrilliant
Date: 25 May 99 - 10:38 AM

As kids we always tried REALLY hard to say 'white rabbit' on the first of the month - thereby protecting oneself from the 'pinch & a punch on the first of the month' thing (which could be vicious). If you managed to make 'white rabbit' the VERY FIRST thing you said on that morning then you couldn't be 'pinched & punched'. Also, if you got your 'pinch & punch' in first AND added 'and no returns' to the end of the ritual words then your victim could not get you back. I was the youngest & therefor much 'pinched & punched'. Ahhh. I'm feeling all nostalgic now - I'll have to go & email my sister.


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: The_one_and_only_Dai
Date: 25 May 99 - 11:31 AM

Why weren't trawlermen allowed to put out if they saw (a) a pig, (b) a priest, or (c) a woman on their way to the boat? Didn't they like fishing, or something? (That superstition is from East Scotland, I think)


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Barbara
Date: 25 May 99 - 12:39 PM

You all know how in the theater, people say "Break a leg" when they want to wish you good luck on opening night? (Wonder where that one came from? If you say it, it won't happen?)
One of the local folks's 6 yr old nephew heard people saying that to her, and couldn't understand why. She explained about it being a way of wishing the person a good show, and when she headed out the door, he called to her "Poke your eye out, Auntie Deb!"
Now all the locals at Gallery Theater in McMinnville say "Poke your eye out" to each other.
Blessings,
Barbara, off to find some popcorn someplace so she can get catspaw's possum shipped. Bet they have some at the theater.


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From:
Date: 25 May 99 - 12:48 PM

I know a really good one, but I can't say it here. ;-)

annap aka APAVAO


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Penny S
Date: 25 May 99 - 02:03 PM

Aren't those fishermen's taboos matched by some for miners? Not necessarily coal miners, but mineral men? I'm not sure about the pig, but women and priests were a good reason for not going underground. I have a suspicion that we may be dealing with cthonic (?) matters here. Priests are obviously concerned with death. Women with birth and death (as in laying out). And pigs in mythology are beasts of the underworld. Both the sea and the underground are places where workers wouldn't want to call death to mind, for fear he might come.


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Terry
Date: 25 May 99 - 03:15 PM

The superstition about "three on a match" is still around in my part of the US. A girl won't be the third to light her cigarette from the match for fear of becoming pregnant.

My Irish grandparents never praised a child's good looks for fear he or she would be stolen. When people exclaimed, "Isn't she darling!" my granny would answer, "Who? Her? Ahhh, she's not too bad, I guess."


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: John OSh
Date: 25 May 99 - 06:11 PM

In relation to "White Rabbit" mentioned above, I was camping w/ some friends in college, and as we were sitting around the fire one kept repeating "I hate white rabbits" under his breath (really!)

When I asked him why, he said that he learned in the Boy Scouts that if constantly said "I hate white rabbits" the smoke from the fire would not blow on you. (Must be a Minn. thing)

And to the Macbeth tradition/superstition, I took a class in collect were all we did each week was see various plays in Chicago and discuss them (great class/tix were part of class fee/all the actors were wonderfully kind).

We had just finished watching the company perform Macbeth, and while they were preparing for the evening show, they invited the class back to talk. Needless to say, you had about 20 people talking and saying Macbeth over and over for about 10 min., when the director came back, heard what was going on, and chased everone out (including the actors) from backstage yelling at us that we had jinxed the show... and he was from eastern europe, so I guess it is pretty wide spread.

John OSh


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: bill\sables
Date: 25 May 99 - 06:50 PM

Going back to miners, Coal miners in County Durham England, when they were having a bath they left a square of coal duat on their back believing that if it was washed off it would sap their strength, and when they were drawing lots as to which area in the mine they would work for the next three months their wives used to put the cat in the oven for good luck. In winter when the fire was lit they lost quite a few cats that way. If they had to return to the house for any reason after they left for work they would then stay away from work that day. If they saw a pig, a priest, or a cockeyed woman that was also an sign to take the day off. One lazy bugger my father knew always went to work via the pig sties hoping to see one. Cheers Bill


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Mark Roffe
Date: 25 May 99 - 10:04 PM

For me and Ginny, the word for many years was "dishes."

It made no difference what the context; if one of us said "dishes," we ended up in a tiff. (The bad feelings came out of each of our guilt for letting the dishes pile up before we'd wash 'em.)

It got to the point where if I said something like "I saw some nice dishes in this pottery book," Ginny might react with "I'm sorry I didn't get the dishes washed, but I had to grade papers and take the boys for haircuts...while you had a nice day at work, going out to eat in restaurants.....OK??" It became a sure cause-and-effect reaction: say the word "dishes" and end up upset and sorry.

But we worked it out! We decided to call them "elephants." This actually worked. We could now freely say things to each other like "look at how many elephants are piled up on the kitchen counter!" and neither of us would get plugged in.

Love can even conquer a forbidden word.

Mark


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: lloyd61
Date: 26 May 99 - 01:50 AM

Lets hear from our friends in Norway, Tell us about UFFDA. What does it mean? and how did it come into being.


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 26 May 99 - 08:02 AM

Wilfreds?? Not from "Pip, Squeak and ..." by any chance, Shambles?

Steve


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: The Shambles
Date: 26 May 99 - 01:39 PM

Yes, I think, judging by the age group that use that particular term, it probably was. I have heard Wilburs too.


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Fadac
Date: 27 May 99 - 10:27 AM

Hmmm, here it looks like guns, religin, politics, and such are more less forbiden words. They just bring up too much emotion. Friends start YELLING at each other. So perhaps they should be restricted to; Ok your point is, one line then quit. Those polorized threads just last too long.

Now if people would just listen to a nice little Polka, played by a hot accordion band, well, if someone can stay mad while listing to a hot Polka, they just arn't worth talking to.

Sorry to meander, but it's Thursday.

Fadac


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 05:26 AM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 07:00 AM

Been a lot of refreshing of old threads going on lately, hasn't there?

Rick, do you remember the "Blackadder" episode where Blackadder keeps saying "MacBeth" to the luvvies?

I myself am not superstitious in the slightest, but I do "touch wood" (knock on wood, as they say here) and when in England I always used to salute a single magpie. Crazy, isn't it?

Murray


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 01:02 PM

The "break a leg" wish goes back a long time. In German it's "hals und bein brachen"--loosely, "break your neck and bone(s)".

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: Jack the Sailor
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 01:42 PM

Hmmmmm

how about cripple? retarded? coloured? etc.. as if replacing one label with another makes a difference. If it does, why don't we change the labels on a regular schedule? Like they name hurricanes.


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: The Walrus at work
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 02:06 PM

Of "the Scottish play" and 3 lights from a match

I am informed that mentioning "McBeth" off stage was considered unluck because there are parts of the scenes with the witches which mimic (or reproduce) part of the "Black Mass" (can't say that I've noticed it, but there you go), thus associating oneself with this was unlucky.

The 3rd off a match predates the Great War. As I understand it, it dates back to the Crimea, to an old Russian superstition involving imitating a priest lighting church candles from a common taper.

By the bye, does anyone know the origin of the ban on whistling in a theatre? I've heard the "supernatural" version - whistling is part of the invocation of the Devil (who will arrive in a storm - hence whistle up a storm) and a more practical version - Whistle signals were used to move flys and the like around so you stand a chance getting a sand bag on the head.

"A whistling woman, a crowing hen are neither good for beast nor men."

Walrus


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: running.hare
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 02:34 PM

I must admit to being Very naughty & using the R&*$$!£$ word on portland, but generaly yes we call them wilfies when there. I've also been led to beleive it's because they caused many Deaths when Quarries the'd dug there burrows in to collapsed.

I could of coure mentioned the other portland tales told in other parts of Dorset, but as the's a portlandlander here I'll resist the temptation. & leave you all guessing.

Other superstitions:- Cornish Miners whould always leave a crust of their tilie-ogie (pastie) for the mine spirits, to guard against death.


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Subject: RE: Forbidden or unlucky words? (Mostly BS)
From: vindelis
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 03:11 PM

With regard to the 'R' word, mentioned by The Shambles. I do recall my father telling me of the day when he was off in a boat, fishing. They were in the process of 'shooting a net' around a shoal of fish, and Old Joe Stone was walking along the top of the cliff, guiding the proceedings. Joe looked left, looked right and sent them back - minus the fish. When they got back to shore, he informed them, that he'd seen 'One of they furry things'. Superstition? Why did Churches have bay trees, if not to keep away the evil spirits? Not forgetting 'Conjurer's Lodge' the church built in Chiswell, Portland, in 1816, by 50 members of the local Methodist Church who refused to renounce their belief in witchcraft. They were accepted back'into the fold' by a different Minister, but the building, now a carpenter's store, still has its old name.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Forbidden or unlucky words?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 21 Nov 11 - 12:09 AM

I just stumbled on this old thread, and am fascinated by it.

Regarding the prohibition against actors saying "Macbeth"—how does this work when the play you're working on IS Macbeth? Can actors (etc.) really get through a month of rehearsals without mentioning the name of the play, or the lead character? Or are the rules suspended for the duration?

I should add, in every play I've been involved in, standard practice during rehearsals is that actors are referred to by their character names rather than the actors' actual names: "Tell Hamlet he's got to move a little farther downstage before Ophelia enters," etc.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Forbidden or unlucky words?
From: Mysha
Date: 21 Nov 11 - 09:08 AM

Hi,

Regarding the Scottish Play: You refer to the lead characters as Mr. M. and Mrs. M..

Bye
                                                                  Mysha


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Forbidden or unlucky words?
From: grumpy al
Date: 21 Nov 11 - 10:23 AM

Hey Shambles you missed " they white arsed buggers" used a lot in the quarries.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Forbidden or unlucky words?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 22 Nov 11 - 10:09 AM

Good question, Jim. But I used to help my mother work costumes for a theatrical troupe. If you expect actors to make sense, you are in for a disappointment.
==============
Where I live, the weather is intense and variable. We have a superstition against saying what you hope for in the way of weather. For example, we would never say, "I hope it's nice for the picnic on Sunday," because that would tip Them off, and they will make it rain. Or perhaps send a tornado.

Most people don't actually define Them, but I call them the Weather Demons.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Forbidden or unlucky words?
From: GUEST,c.g.
Date: 22 Nov 11 - 10:18 AM

The last line of the play 'East Lynne' should only be said in performance, never in rehearsal or quoted.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Forbidden or unlucky words?
From: A Wandering Minstrel
Date: 23 Nov 11 - 08:12 AM

It used to be a theatrical custom not to count the number of people on stage during the last scene of Dr Faustus


(presumably in case there were more devils than were in the actual cast >;) )


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Forbidden or unlucky words?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 23 Nov 11 - 10:51 AM

There is a tradition in baseball, that if a pitcher has a no-hitter in progress, no one is supposed to mention it. I think the origin of this rule is that the pitcher's teammates wouldn't want to put too much pressure on him, so they wouldn't mention it in his presence. But that wouldn't explain why the custom has extended to others whom the pitcher wouldn't normally hear anyway, especially the announcers who cover the game for television or radio. (I don't think baseball players normally listen to radio or TV commentary during the game—it would put too much pressure on all of them!) In other words, it has turned into a superstition.

Wikipedia has an article.


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