Wednesday, September 25, 2013

2077 High Jinks

Sometimes I'll find myself saying a word and then wonder, "Where did that word come from?" Especially if the word seems to make no sense, as in nonsense. Not nonsense the word, that makes perfect sense. The word in question. 

Like the word hijinks. “Those Marx Brothers were up to all kinds of hijinks.” I've seen it spelled with an x as in h-i-j-i-n-x-. I've seen it spelled hijinks with a k-s- on the end. I've even seen it broken into two words: h-i-g-h- and j-i-n-k-s-.

The etymology dictionary tends towards this form, as it uses the “high” to mean a large quantify of jinks. As opposed, I guess, to low jinks, which would indicate a more sober outing jinks-wise. 

"Man, that party was boring. They sure had some low jinks."

Jinks themselves were apparently some sort of game played at drinking parties back in the 1690s. Although the wider definition of the whole hijinks word is "boisterous capers."

Capers in the activities sense not the add-them-to-salad sense. Although the term boisterous capers seems somehow related to jumping beans.   

Jink itself, neither high nor low is, according to the same etymology dictionary, a sort of dance step. It means to wheel or fling about when dancing. That's from around 1715 and is of Scottish origin, so there may be kilts involved. Barely possible capering jinks has something to do with the present perfect tense of junk, without a dangling participle. 

Neither one seems to have anything to do with the sense of jinx as in putting a jinx on someone. That witchcraft meaning derives from the Latin word for wryneck. A bird used for divination. It's an old world woodpecker. 

I wonder if the kilt-flinging Scotsmen imitated it in their dancing?

Hijinks indeed.

America, ya gotta love it.

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