cootie catcher

Alice Faber faber at POP.HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Mon Aug 7 16:12:38 UTC 2000

Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM wrote:
>In and around NYC in the fifties & sixties I heard only "fortune teller".

In Westchester (northern NY suburbs) in the early-mid 60s, I'm pretty
sure we used both. The town I grew up in was approximately 1/3
natives, 1/3 folks who'd moved out to the suburbs from NYC, and 1/3
in-migrants from the midwest. I remember being conscious of the
resulting dialect mélange (pop vs soda, what's the vowel in the first
syllable of coffee and chocolate, etc) from an early age, so it's
possible that "fortune teller" was the native/local term and "cootie
catcher" an import, but I honestly don't know. As I posted elsewhere
on this thread, we were very aware of metaphorical cooties but
totally unaware that there was any real critter called cootie. I
remember being shocked when (in high school, or perhaps even
college!) I learned that cooties were lice. I don't even remember
lice-checks (louse-checks?), though I suppose the school nurse must
have done some kind of visual inspection.

Alice Faber                    new, improved email: faber at
Haskins Laboratories            old email, if you must: faber at
New Haven, CT 06511 USA           tel: (203) 865-6163 x258; fax (203) 865-8963

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