Bill Palmer w_a_palmer at BELLSOUTH.NET
Sun Jul 5 13:28:19 UTC 2009

Joel describes what we in elementary school in east Texas called a "cootie
catcher". Sounds like the concept is widespread, if not the term.

Bill Palmer

----- Original Message -----
From: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
Sent: Sunday, July 05, 2009 9:03 AM
Subject: Re: cooties

> ---------------------- Information from the mail
> header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: cooties
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 7/4/2009 10:08 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>>Seems like most dictionaries, at least the online ones, do gloss it
>>as 'body louse'.  When I was growing up, cooties were always in the
>>plural, they were invisible, and they were things one accused another
>>of having or giving.  I think I assumed they were distinct from lice,
>>which were real, and from other actual critters.  Hard to recall,
> In my elementary school (or was it junior high school) days, there
> was a prank.  One (that is, others) constructed a square piece of
> paper so that the face had four triangular flaps (imagine an X
> inscribed in a square).  These flaps were operated from the reverse
> side by four fingers such that a pair of flaps on opposite sides
> could be opened simultaneously, displaying the surface of paper
> beneath them.  The surface of the paper below one pair of flaps was
> left blank; on the other pair of surfaces were drawn small, repulsive
> mites.  The Other said to one, "I need to check for cooties",
> displayed the two unmarked surfaces, put the device against one's
> head with a grasping motion, took it off, and displayed the other two
> surfaces.
> From that moment forth (or perhaps even earlier), I always
> associated cooties with the head.  (Although ringworm was the
> condition for which schoolchildren were sent home in my day.)
> Joel
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