Apr 11, 2012

J is for...

So I was researching the etymology of some words the other day (that's a thing that normal people can do for fun sometimes... don't look at me like that!) and I discovered that "jinx" was rather interesting. Most probably stemming from a subspecies of the Picidae family (the family that contains woodpeckers), the birds of genus Jynx, also known as the wryneck birds, are pretty interesting.
Aside from having the the nifty ability to turn their heads 180 degrees and hiss like a snake (or possibly because of it...), they were often used in witchcraft, which led to the term “jinx” as applied to a curse that we find in use today.

In fact, if we go back even further, we find that the wryneck has been getting the short end of the stick for quite a while. According to Greek mythology, Iynx was a nymph... or possibly one of nine maidens. Depending on the story you're reading, she either enchanted Zeus to fall in love with Io and was punished by Hera, or she and her sisters entered a musical contest with the Muses. Either way, she became the Eurasian Wryneck, and has been singing, hissing, and helping to curse the unwary ever since.

So what do you think? Did the bird make the name unlucky, or was it doomed to an unlucky fate with a name like Jynx?

1 comment:

  1. No harm in researching etymology! Everyone does that, right? *ignores strange stares* That's really interesting. I've heard of Iynx and the story I'm more familiar with was the one with the Muses (though I think I've heard of the Zeus story before somewhere...)

    Truth be told, when I saw Jynx, my mind went to the Pokemon...