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Oct 17, 2011

"fingers crossed"…

it rolls off everyone’s tongue so easily… i grew up with the "fingers crossed" saying when hoping for something to turn out well, to have a positive outcome… but ever wondered where it came from? i hadn’t thought about it significantly before - but then i went to use it earlier… all of a sudden i was intrigued by 'whose' superstition it was based on and had to check it out…

tt’s not so easy to discover the origin though – so here’s a few of the ‘origins’ I came across…

purely christian...

"The theory of a Christian origin of crossing your fingers is based on early periods in the religion's history. During these early times, Christianity was an outlawed religion and the disciples of Christ usually formed a secret society. To protect the identity of the sect's followers, secret hand signs were developed so the members could recognize each other."

majorly christian...

“Crossing fingers - Generally this means "wishing for good luck or fortune". Another interpretation could be seen as "here's hoping". The gesture probably has pagan / Christian origins where the gesture was believed to ward off evil. As such, folklore believes that crossing the fingers when telling a lie somehow offsets the evil of the lie... Some historians believe that crossing your fingers is a hidden or secret way of making the Christian sign of the cross - a sure-fire way of defeating demons. As a gesture it has both positive and negative symbolism. Luck or lies.”

"The custom of crossing your fingers for good luck is fairly common. Superstition states that the act of crossing one's index and middle fingers brings good luck and wards off evil spirits or witches."

“Crossing one's fingers is a quick and easy way of making the sign of the cross to shield oneself from diabolic powers. It is also easy to keep them crossed, thus ensuring lasting protection from the devil's tricks.”

purely pagan… 

“Another theory suggests that the sign pre-dates Christianity, when it was believed that benign spirits dwelt at the intersecting point of the cross, as in the Solar Cross (also known as Pagan Cross, Sun Cross, Wheel Cross, Odin's Cross or Woden's Cross). In Europe, the sign was made by two people; the first to make the wish and the second to support it. Linking their fingers firmly would squeeze and energize the spirits into beneficial action.

The popular gesture grew out of the pagan belief that a cross was a symbol of perfect unity; and that its point of intersection marked the dwelling place of beneficent spirits. A wish made on a cross was supposed to be anchored steadfastly at the cross's intersection until that desire was realized. The superstition was popular among many early European cultures.”

to add to that… 

“To ensure the wish stayed in place and on the wisher’s mind, it was often tied to the finger with string, a practice that eventually evolved into a memory aid.”

and now… 

“… As time passed, the rigors of the custom eased and a person could wish without the assistance of an associate. It sufficed merely to cross the index and the middle fingers…

Over time the ancient custom of the "crossed fingers" of friends degenerated to a wisher crossing his own fingers and finally to today's expression "I'll keep my fingers crossed," with the well wisher never actually doing so, and no one expecting him or her to.  What was once deliberate and symbolic has become reflexive and insignificant—though not obsolete.”

hmmm, this one gesture can identify me to likeminded people, ward off evil, allow me to lie without consequence and bring me a whole lotta good luck - wow - what duality - it spans both good and bad... 

hearing that phrase is going to conjure up a whole different image in future!!! don't you just love the etymology of words and phrases - the power and politics of language...

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Posted: Oct 17, 2011 9:08am
Oct 17, 2011
being called 'lady' and the ensuing conversation with a couple of friends last week really frustrated, or should that be annoyed or disheartened me - perhaps all three - it's a word i never use because to me it's heavy with oppression...

when i'm called 'lady' i cringe - when i was growing up young womyn were supposed to act like young 'ladies' so we were constantly being told "ladies don't talk back" (opinionated womyn definitely weren't ladies!) - "ladies don't swear" - "ladies don't dress like ______" (insert your own term here - whore, slut, harlot - the antithesis of a lady!!) - "ladies don't smoke in the street" (because they looked 'cheap' - meaning whore, slut, harlot. etc.!!) - it was a constant litany of 'ladies don't do this', 'ladies don't do that'... hmmm, apparently ladies didn't do very much at all so who'd want to be one? everything i did when growing up (and still do) was very unladylike...

and the origin of the word...

"Lady begins in Anglo-Saxon or Old English as hlæfdige ‘bread-kneader’ being compounded of hlaf ‘loaf of bread’ + dige ‘female kneader.’ So the first lady was she who kneaded the bread. Lord is what is left from Old English hlaf -weard> hlaford =, hlāf ‘bread, loaf ‘+ weard keeper, guard (think of ward, wardrobe, guard, garden [place where you keep or guard plants?] ). So the lady kneaded the loaf of bread and the lord guarded the bread as master of the household." from

there is consensus with this...

"c.1200, lafdi, lavede, from O.E. hlæfdige "mistress of a household, wife of a lord," lit. "one who kneads bread," from hlaf "bread" (see loaf) + -dige "maid," related to dæge "maker of dough" (see dey (1); also compare lord). The medial -f- disappeared 14c. Not found outside English except where borrowed from it." from online etymology dictionary

this last source also goes on:

"Sense of "woman of superior position in society" is c.1200; "woman whose manners and sensibilities befit her for high rank in society" is from 1861 (ladylike in this sense is from 1580s, and ladily from c.1400). Meaning "woman as an object of chivalrous love" is from early 14c. Used commonly as an address to any woman since 1890s."

it was something to 'aspire' to if you were from the lower socio-economic class...

"In the late 19th and early twentieth century, in a difference reflected in the British novelist Nancy Mitford's essay "U vs. non-U", lower class women strongly preferred to be called "ladies" while women from higher social backgrounds were content to be identified as "women." Alfred Ayer remarked in 1881 that upper middle class female store clerks were content to be "saleswomen," while lower class female store clerks, for whom their job represented a social advancement, insisted on being called "salesladies." These social class issues, while no longer as prominent in this century, have imbued the formal use of "lady" with something of irony (e.g.: "my cleaning lady," or "ladies of the night" for prostitutes)." from wikipedia

sadly, the word lady still appears to be in usage as a definer of womyn, a shackle to keep us in our 'place' - according to an article on ms magazine's blog - "who're you calling a lady?" by Leah Berkenwald - an american member of congress caused outrage just last month...

"This week, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) reminded American women that in order to be afforded due respect from him and ultra-conservatives like him, they need to act like ladies.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) had criticized Rep. West’s opposition to raising the debt ceiling:

"The gentleman from Florida, who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries, unbelievable from a Member from South Florida, slashes Medicaid and critical investments essential to winning the future in favor of protecting tax breaks for Big Oil, millionaires, and companies who ship American jobs overseas."

In response, Rep. Allen West sent a personal attack in the form of an email to Schultz cc’d to Congressional leadership. In it, he called the Congresswoman “the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the US House of Representatives” and a “coward,” and told her to “shut the heck up.” Then he wrote this:

"You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!"

you can read the rest of the article here, but one of my favourite comments to the article was from a womon called sha:

"If you get right down to it, what he really means by being a “Lady” is being the under-educated, disenfranchised property of her husband with little to no interest or stake in the political process that governs her life and choices. We get it, you would love to return to the days of petticoats and lynch mobs, but it isn’t going to happen, so you better learn to dialogue with a woman who takes her job seriously and may even believe she is there for the people she represents. Radical, I know!"

nah, this womon ain't no lady!! (and i didn't think i'd ever get this post finished - it seems to have taken me all morning because my internet has kept dropping out - talk about pissed off - oooooh, how fucking unladylike!!!!

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Posted: Oct 17, 2011 9:05am


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Sharon T.
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St Kilda West, VI, Australia
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