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A jinx, in popular superstition and folklore, is:
  • A sort of curse placed on a person that makes them prey to large numbers of minor misfortunes and other forms of bad luck;
  • A person afflicted with a similar curse, who, while not directly subject to a series of misfortunes, seems to attract them to anyone in his general area.
  • An object or animal that brings bad luck.

The character of Joe Btfsplk[?], from Al Capp's Li'l Abner comic strip, was a jinx. His curse was symbolized by a small dark cloud that hovered above his head.

The etymology of the word is obscure. The word seems to have originally been used in the context of baseball; in Pitching at a Pinch (1910), Christy Mathewson explained that "a jinx is something which brings bad luck to a ball player." It may come from Latin iynx, the name for the wryneck bird, which was occasionally used in magic and divination. Barry Popik of the American Dialect Society[?] suggests that the word shold be traced back to a American folksong called Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines, which was first recorded in 1868. One verse in one version goes:

The first day I went out to drill
The bugle sound made me quite ill,
At the Balance step my hat it fell,
And that wouldn't do for the Army.
The officers they all did shout,
They all cried out, they all did shout,
The officers they all did shout,
"Oh, that's the curse of the Army."

The reference to various misfortunes and a curse lend plausibility to this explanation. Earlier sports references often use the spelling jinks.

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