Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon Jul 29 18:46:01 UTC 2002

>... the old song about Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines which Barry
>Popik unearthed was still well known just at the point at which it might
>have been taken up by baseball players.

The Captain Jinks song was still in the song-book at my school around 1960;
I remember the corn and beans well!

>... it may well be that the 1859 poem about the printer's devil named
>Jinks that he has since found is no more than a coincidence.

Reading the 1859 poem from Cohen and Popik in CoE 31(1):6-8:

"Sure, that must be Jinks," we muttered--
"Jinks that's knocking at our door;
Jinks, the everlasting bore."
we opened wide the door.
But phancey, now, our pheelinks
For it wasn't Jinks, the bore--
Jinks, nameless evermore.

But the form that stood before us,
Caused a trembling to come o'er us,
'Twas the form of our "devil,"

It appears that the newspaperman opens the door expecting Jinks, but --
surprise! -- it's NOT Jinks, but RATHER the "devil" with an unwelcome
demand. Am I missing something here? Jinks just stands in for an anonymous
imaginary visitor in Poe's poem, right? And I would take "Jinks" to be a
nonentity-name used like "Jones" sometimes is used.

As for Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines, the song goes "That's the curse
of the Army", not "He's the curse of the Army", right? I think Jinks in the
song is just a soldier-buffoon, not a jinx or Jonah.

The other Captain Jinks, in the 1902 novel, is without jinx-like character.
The "Captain Jinks" song is quoted in the novel with a remark as to the
coincidence of names, BTW. I think the name was chosen for the novel as
meaning "military chauvinistic idiot" or so; however, by 1902 "Jinks" may
have been a minimally-masked version of "Jingo" in its modern sense, to
essentially the same effect.

>Of course, it might also be that the name was chosen there, as it was for
>the Captain Jinks song, because it already had associations with bad luck
>or incompetence through a reference that we haven't (yet) turned up.

Possible, but review of many 19th-century uses of the name at MoA does not
suggest this to me. There does seem to be a correlation (imperfect) with
the military, probably secondary to the famous song.

>It is also possible that the link is to the relatively rare word "jynx"
>which dictionaries still give as the origin, thus ultimately proving them

Possible. But the sole OED citation of "jynx" = "charm" appears to be
pre-1700, and it shows the obscure Latin plural form "jynges". The big
Century Dictionary of 1889 shows the equivalents "iynx" and "yunx" as
headwords -- neither pronounced at all like "jinx" -- but "jynx" itself
gets no entry, nor does "jinx"; only the bird ("wryneck") meaning is
included anyway (no mention of magic).

-- Doug Wilson

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