cootie catcher

Tom Kysilko pds at VISI.COM
Sun Aug 6 01:27:36 UTC 2000

I recently encountered a device made of folded paper, that grade school
kids used for telling fortunes (when I was one.)  The subject chooses an
option written on a fold of the paper, the fortune-teller manipulates the
device with four fingers revealing another set of options.  This is
repeated twice more, the last choice revealing the fortune written on the
opposite side of the fold.

Although I remember the device, I remember no name for it.  My wife
remembers it as a "cootie catcher".

I can find neither "cootie catcher" nor "cooty catcher" in:
        Wentworth and Flexner
        Ayto and Simpson
although they all have references to real and/or fanciful body vermin.

Cootie catchers were mentioned on this list in 1993 in connection with a
thread on Cooties.

The term seems to be alive and well.  AltaVista just gave me 1000+ hits for
"cootie catcher", including instructions for making one (below, sans
diagrams), and 2 hits for "cooty catcher", including the transcript of
Terry Nichols' trial (also below).

Are these things known by any other names?  And what is their connection
with cooties?


                    Marife Nichols - Direct
         MR. TIGAR:  Let me do it this way to save time.  We
offer M301, M303, M304, M306, M308, M309, and that's it, your
         MR. RYAN:  No objection to any of those, your Honor.
         THE COURT:  All right.  They are received.
Q.  Mrs. Nichols, could you just leaf through those and just
tell the jury briefly what each one of them is.
A.  M301, it's a card for me that Terry made -- made.  It's --
a welcome-back card.  When I went to Philippines.
Q.  And is it made in the same way as the other ones?
A.  Yes.
Q.  Okay.  All right.  The next one.
A.  M303.  He made a card for Nicole, "Daddy's little angel."
         M304, he made me a card.  I think this is a
Valentine's card.  It says he loves me.
         M306, he made a -- what do you call it?  Kootchie -- I
don't know -- how do you call it in English?
Q.  A cooty-catcher?
A.  A cooty-catcher.
Q.  Is that folded paper with numbers on it for kids to use?
A.  Yes.

1. Start with a rectangular sheet of paper. Fold the bottom of the paper to
the side of the page, to make a triangle.
2. Then cut off the flap above the triangle.
3. Now open the triangle and you'll have a square.
4. Fold one corner to the other corner diagonally.
5. Open paper.
6. Fold corners toward center of the paper
7. When all 4 corners are folded, your paper will look like this.
8. Flip your paper over so the folded sides are face down.
9. Again, fold corners toward center diagonally.
10. When all 4 corners are folded, your paper will look like this.
11. On the same side, write the numbers 1 through 8, putting one number in
each triangle.
12. Hold the paper in front of you like a square.  Fold it in half
vertically and pen it back up again.
13. Then fold the square in half horizontally and open it back up again.
Make sure that the numbers you've written are facing you.
14. Open each flap and write a fortune on each triangle inside.  When your
fortunes are written, close all the flaps.
15. Flip the paper over and color each square with a different color.
16. Flip the paper over again so that the numbers are face up.  Fold the
square in half, either horizontally or vertically.  Slide your thumbs and
fingers under the four flaps.
17. Finally, rotate your hands, bringing your thumbs and index fingers
together.  The cootie catcher should expand. The numbered triangles will
disappear inside, like the middle of a flower when the petals close.  Then
open and play!

  Tom Kysilko        Practical Data Services
  pds at       Saint Paul MN USA

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