Wednesday, April 15

Knocking on Wood


Now, who’d ever want to do something so outrageous as that?
Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit morbid, I suppose, because everywhere I look, I seem to spot danger – So today, I was talking with my tire guy who brings me my daily paper about the health risks of where he works. On a street so clogged with rush hour traffic, (and where I begrudgingly had chosen to walk my dog), I imagined (out loud) that the exhaust fumes would have to affect his lungs in the long term. After all, I could barely breathe by the time I got to his doorway.
So, during the course of our conversation, he immediately had the second best response he could summon -- he reached over to touch the metal jack that lifts up the cars. Only because he’s an amazingly polite and humble guy who happened to be in mixed company; or else, he would have gone for his first response: touching his balls.
Now, I don’t know where any of this comes from: knocking on wood, iron, or your balls (if you should be so endowed), but, I suppose in a later entry, I can look it up. I imagine it might come from Major League Baseball...perhaps the team with the..errr... lighter touch, so to speak, loses?
But, what I’d truly like to know is…has it ever worked? Is there some documentation that, after touching iron in your car, your auto didn’t swerve back onto the road and not tumble off a bridge? In a country choc-a-bloc with saints and miracles, are there testimonials stored in the Vatican's secret archives that show how many 'miracolati' there are from Iron - Wood and Palle? Or, perhaps Italy's Centro Nazionale della Ricerca conducted a study and found that all groin graters never ever got heart attacks?
Nonetheless, it’s one of those curious cultural caricatures which comes up now and again in conversation (polite or not so polite, take your pick), which always leaves you wondering.

8 comments:

Dave514 said...

Francesca:
Below you'll find an explanation.

The Yiddish expression to call someone a,"schmuk" literally a penis comes from the German/Austrian word, "Schmucker" or jeweler= family jewels.

But why they touch, "iron" and we, "touch wood"---who knows.


Davide



Why Do Italians Grab their Crotches to Ward off Bad Luck?
Crotch-grabbing is a common habit among superstitious Italian males, who believe the gesture wards off bad luck. What does the crotch have to do with luck? Because it's the seat of fertility. The crotch grab goes back at least to the pre-Christian Roman era and is closely associated with another superstition called the "evil eye"

Carol said...

and of course, when they do touch iron it's with 'the horn' fingers...

we 'knock wood' to distract the spirits that are listening...plausible?

Anonymous said...

My fidanzato does this anytime he comes across a nun. He says it's to prevent infertility. boh! lol....

Anonymous said...

I read your blog almost daily, and feel constrained to point out, word-junkie that I am, an interesting amphibology. "Testis" in Latin means both "witness" and, you know, "testicle", possibly because it is the witness of virility, although some claim the anatomical term comes from "testa", or "pod". Thus "testimony" is that which you swear testicles in hand, a solemn oath. In the book of Genesis, the patriarch Abraham sends a trusted servant to find a wife for Isaac, and makes him swear to follow directions--" 'I abjure thee', laying his hand on his thigh" (discreet Bible talk for testicle). So men are swearing by all they hold most precious and holy, or cupping the cojones to avert the evil eye.

Francesca Maggi said...

So, would it stand to follow that 'knocking on wood' might come from touching your woody?

Dave514 said...

Anonymous:
You and your fidanzato must look real funny walking in Vatican City...LOL!!!


Davide

Anonymous said...

woody wood pecker??

hihi..
c.

Caroline Lawrence (AKA Flavia) said...

lol. I guess that answers my question: What did Italian men do with their hands in the days before mobile phones and cigarettes.