Daily Archives: December 24, 2014


We just watched The Theory of Everything. I noticed that the editor was named Jinx Godfrey.

Hmm. Jinx. Haven’t done that one yet. Until now.

Jinx Godfrey’s given name is actually Jessica (of course I dug up her info online; easily found, she’s a well respected film editor), but Jinx is much more catchy, don’t you think? I associate it with one other person in the movies: Jinx Johnson, a Bond girl played by Halle Berry in Die Another Day.

Jinx is also a name (I find) for a female supervillain from Wonder Woman comics and for a female soldier from GI Joe. The lead singer of the American metal band Coven is named Jinx Dawson – her given name from birth (after a family name, Jinks). There’s a line of clothing called J!NX.

Now tell me why Jinx would seem like a name more for a woman than for a man.

No doubt there are elements of traditional masculinist prejudices: women being bad luck and all that. The usual pain-in-the-neck prejudices.

But what else? Its rhyme with minx, perhaps? How about some desired hijinks? Any recollection of the Sphinx or perhaps of Syrinx, both female? Or of wry little winks? The final x has that promissory kiss of sex and just happens to show up on various words for female versions of persons: aviatrix, editrix, executrix… Such multifarious links.

Originally, of course, a jinx could be anyone or anything. The OED gives Jonah as an epitome of the type: the ship he was on was doomed to sink until he was tossed overboard. Even today, we have many jinxes not at all associated with women. If two people say something at the same time, a tradition is to say “Jinx! You owe me a beer” – whoever does so first supposedly collects the beer (although my ledger of beers owed and owing through this claim surely totals in the dozens and yet none has ever been paid).

Also, if a person makes a forward-looking statement that seems to presuppose a positive outcome of an uncertain endeavour, that may be thought to jinx it. Any time some Olympic commentator says something like “The only question is what colour {his|her} medal will be,” that is a jinx; I can’t even tell you how many times (but at least several in my hearing), after that has been said, some disaster has befallen the athlete in question, putting him or her out of the medals. I wish those bloody sportscasters would owe me a beer after doing that, and the athlete too, and pay up. A complete pain the neck – just torture to hear it. I have a bird every time they do.

A bird? How about a wryneck – the bird that shares its name with a condition also known as torticollis that is indeed a big pain in the neck? This wryneck, a kind of woodpecker, has a sinuous neck that allows it to turn its head nearly 180 degrees back, and they use this twisting along with hissing as a threat display. You could consider them Linda Blairs (of The Exorcist) of the bird world, minus the projectile emesis. They also have a history – no doubt related – of being used in witchcraft.

The Greek name of the wryneck is ἴυγξ iugx (pronounced “iunx”), which was Latinized as iynx, which in modern Latin – which differentiates j from i – is jynx. This jynx is the etymon of jinx; the word for the ill-fated person or thing is taken directly from the word for the bird, and respelled.

Actually I like the y spelling better. It’s true that the i spelling has the two dots, but the y spelling has the two tails (and how many tales!), and y is a less common letter, and anyway, maybe a bit of XY would balance out the sexes for this word.