cootie catchers

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Jul 6 14:01:13 UTC 2009

In Google Books:

_Origami_ in Action_ [engagingly apt title], by Robert J. Lang.

_Arthur and the Cootie Catcher_ (several authors):  a fortune-telling
cootie catcher [not in my recollection, however].

The earliest I find in Google Books -- 1979, _Early Childhood Art_,
by Barbara H. Herberholz (snippet): "COOTIE-CATCHER PUPPET: To make
this puppet, the child starts with a nine- or twelve-inch square of
paper. This is folded diagonally twice to find the center
...".  [This is several decades after my personal encounter, however.]

And for something entirely different, from 1919, _Alabama's Own in
France, by William Henry Amerine:  "[A} [c]haplain ... makes a
suggestion for the next war ... 'One official "cootie" catcher,
preferably a monkey, for each company commander and each platoon.'"


At 7/6/2009 09:45 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>The term too -- IIRC, "cootie catcher" was the name in the West Bronx also.
>At 7/5/2009 09:28 AM, Bill Palmer wrote:
>>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
>>> 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.)
>>>The American Dialect Society -
>>The American Dialect Society -
>The American Dialect Society -

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