Sam Clements SClements at NEO.RR.COM
Tue Jul 7 00:05:12 UTC 2009

So here's the straight dope.

I called my mom just now(b.1923 Danville VA.) and she remembers them from
1930-37 as a cootie catcher.  It had the blank set of paper faces, and then
another set with the added pencil or pen marks representing cooties.   She
never heard the term "fortune teller" or anything related to that.  They
were only "cootie catchers" and they were used as Joel described.

My sister(b.1951 Arlington VA) knew them as "cootie catchers" probably from
my mom.  But my sister never remembered having anything in them but numbers
and using them to tell fortunes.  No fake cooties.

Sam Clements

----- Original Message -----
From: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
Sent: Sunday, July 05, 2009 09:03
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
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list