A Krummhorn, a unicycle, a wax cylinder

The complex system of pulleys, gears and insulting recommendation algorithms within Amazon.co.jp has at last yielded my copy of Far from the Madding Gerund, which is of course the best of Language Log (except all the Yoda stuff, which is a bit disappointing, but perhaps there were legal concerns.)

One post I either missed the first time or simply forgot about completely was the jinx roundup, which concludes:

I wonder what the jinx culture of non-English-speaking countries is like, and whether there is any international effort to establish best jinx practices and harmonize jinx standards.

I have not kept up with the proceedings of the relevant ISO committee, but I have learned that in Japan the most widespread equivalent of "jinx!" is "happy ice-cream!", which allegedly obliges the sayee to buy the sayer a delicious frozen treat. (Although, of course, this obligation is shirked far more often than not.) There are other traditions in which something like "I got your luck!" is said, and no dairy goods are expected to change hands.

This highlights the genius of jinx: it is not a vague demand that something be bought at some unspecified point in the future, or an untestable claim about fortune in general. No, jinx consists only of an obligation to be silent, conditions the meeting of which free one from that obligation, and the threat of punishment underlying it all. No aspect is inaccessible to even the poorest, most determinedly empirical-minded eight-year-old, which both empowers them to impose it on others and obliges them to submit when they are slower on the draw.

Popularity factor: 3


Amazon recommendations are an interesting thing. Mine seems determined to get me to buy romance novels. Apparently I should love them. And power drills.


I think Amazon is calling you a spinster!

I don't even want to get into what it offers me...


The Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, Tacitus I: Agricola (Loeb Classical Library No 35) and Web Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook are my top three.

I'm so ashamed.

I need to get a life, ya think?

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