Jinx (1907, 1909, 1910)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sat Jan 24 02:59:08 UTC 2004

>         It seems clear to me that the mild oath "by the Jinks" refers to
> the devil.  That makes it a plausible source for jinx=hoodoo, especially
> since many of the early uses in that sense are in baseball cartoons
> showing the jinx to be a devil.  This leaves unanswered the question how
> jinks=devil arose.

I disagree with this as I've said twice before on this list IIRC. First,
can anyone show me, say, three of those "many early uses", preferably with
some evidence that the figure depicted is a/the devil? Second, neither
"jinx" nor "hoodoo" means or meant precisely "devil". [Neither does/did
"mascot" mean "angel".] Does any dictionary show "jinx" or "hoodoo" or
"Jonah" meaning "devil" or "demon"? [I haven't checked them all.] "Jinx"
and "hoodoo" usually refer to a person, animal, or object carrying bad luck
(usually not intentionally), or (especially in the case of "hoodoo") to the
curse itself or to a conjurer/magician.

I noted "by jinks" in my "jinx" etymology posting recently. I do not agree
at all that it refers to the devil. "By Jink[s]" was used like "by golly",
"by gosh", "by jiminy [crikey]", etc., etc., which are generally euphemisms
for "by God", "by Jesus [Christ]", etc. It is not -- and was not -- usual
to swear by the Devil, or by a devil, IMHO. Replace "by the Jinks" with "by
God" or "by golly" and the passage reads the same. Where in similar text do
we see "by the Devil", "by Satan", "by Hell", or anything like that?

"By the Jinks" is a less usual form: AFAIK it was more usually "by
Jink[s]". There were also "by jing[s]" and "by Jingo[es]" and occasionally
"by the living Jingo" which is even more clearly euphemistic for "by [the
Living] Jesus" IMHO. This "Jingo" is the origin of "jingoism" BTW. It is
sometimes said that this "Jingo" was from the Basque word for "God" but I
don't know that this is at all substantiated.

As further evidence against "Jinks" = "devil", I cite the absence of
expressions such as "Jinks take it" or "Go to [the] Jinks", as well as the
absence of stories including "Old Jinks" or so as an alternative to "Old
Nick" or "Old Scratch".

I did look for evidence of "Jinks" = "devil" following Gerald Cohen's
assertion to this effect and I came up pretty dry. I did find (among dozens
of these "jinks"-type interjections) a SINGLE instance of "give him jinks"
apparently equivalent to "give him hell". I take this as probably still
more or less euphemistic for "Jesus": cf. "beat the bejesus out of him" =
"beat the hell out of him".

I've laid out what I believe is probably the true "jinx" etymology in my
postings recently (entitled "jinx" etymology #1-4). Unlike the other
proposed etymologies, this one has real transitional citations (although
only two so far). I would be happy for somebody to find some weaknesses in
my theory so that I can improve it (or even discard it if necessary).

-- Doug Wilson

More information about the Ads-l mailing list