Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes Appalachian Dialect

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Jinx And You Owe Me A Coke

My life in appalachia jinx and you owe me a coke

When I was young if two people said the same word or phrase at the same time both people yelled Jinx! Whoever spit the word Jinx out first also said “And you owe me a coke!” I never remember a coke being bought for actual payment of one person beating the other to the proclamation of JINX! But we always said it anyway.

According to Chatter and Chitter kids still say “Jinx and you owe me a coke” when people say things simultaneously. Well I should rephrase that, Chatter says they do. The ever quipping Chitter claims she says “Jinx and you’re a loser.”

Webb Garrison’s book, Why You Say It, offers this info about the word Jinx and it’s origin:

One of the most popular of creatures for use in divination was the wryneck woodpecker-commonly known in much of the Southeast as the jinx. Many a person who paid good money for information from a jinx regretted having tried to peer into the future. Too often, none of the predicted good came about-while all of the bad omens proved to be true. This denouement was frequent enough to give the poor little woodpecker a bad reputation; disaster followed a reading by means of a jinx so often that the bird’s name came to stand for bad luck.

Woodpeckers telling your future seems sillier than kids demanding cokes, but now that I’ve read Garrison’s book I wonder how they knew what the woodpeckers were saying. Did they chirp out the person’s future or maybe they pecked it into a tree?


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.



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  • Reply
    Bill MacEachern
    September 1, 2013 at 11:25 am

    That should’ve said “cokes on you”

  • Reply
    Bill MacEachern
    September 1, 2013 at 11:23 am

    As a kid growing up in Dorchester Massachusetts, we’d punch the shoulder of the other boy(never to the girls) and say “pig talks next” or “comes on you”

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    March 6, 2013 at 11:52 am

    My favorite part of this one is the line …”the ever quipping Chitter”. That’ll stick with me!

  • Reply
    March 6, 2013 at 7:40 am

    We said the coke part only. Never did make any sense to me, and it seems this mystery may remain unsolved…I’m surprised to read all the comments and see how widespread this strange ritual was!

  • Reply
    Amanda Bowers
    March 5, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    When I was younger we did the “Jinx” and the first one to say it then would say (and do) “Pinch, poke, you owe me a coke”. And no I don’t remember anyone ever making good on it.
    We also would yell (accompanied with a punch in the arm) “Slug bug, no tag back” whenever we come across a VW beetle car.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 4, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Me and Missy used to play Wheelies and Herbies when we saw VWs. Herbies were white ones and were worth 10 points. All the other colors were worth only one. Ever count cows? You count all the cows you see on your side of the road, but if you pass a graveyard you lose them all. That was when she was five and I just acted like it. Her oldest son is 11 now so I have had to go through my 3rd childhood with him. Her youngest in 18 months so I have at least one to go before I can start to be senile. All this childishness can be rough on an old man!

  • Reply
    March 4, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Never heard of this before.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Janice Dean
    March 4, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Someone mentioned the “Punch Buggy”
    My kids and now grandkids, yell “punch buggy” when the first one sees’ a volkswagen bug when they are riding in the car. Doesn’t have to be yellow. And does anyone remember saying “Perdilla” when you seen a car with a head light out? That got you a kiss..

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    March 4, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Tipper, I have never heard the saying till today. In my day it wuld have been,”jinks, you owe me a “dope”.
    I love woodpeckers. We buy the suet blocks and sometime I make them. I like the little black and white downy ones the best. The big ones get on a dead tree and it sounds like a jack-hammer.We have all kinds of birds coming to our feeders. Not so many salola this year.
    Peggy L.

  • Reply
    Sallie Covolo aka Granny Sal
    March 4, 2013 at 9:57 am

    If we said the same words at the same time,back in my day,We would link pinky fingers and make a wish and say together. “Pins, needles,what comes down the chimney ” Smoke, Hope this wish will never be broke. First one touches blue, “Wish will come true, First one touches white it will come true before night”

  • Reply
    March 4, 2013 at 11:35 am

    We only say the “you owe me a Coke” part. I am also not aware of a single incidence where a Coke has actually been paid! I’ve never heard the story about the jinx, I wonder if they were reading the unfortunate birds’ entrails for their omen viewing?

  • Reply
    Mrs. K
    March 4, 2013 at 11:17 am

    We always said, Owe me a coke, but never jinx. Hadn’t thought of that in years!

  • Reply
    March 4, 2013 at 10:53 am

    I did it and my kids still do this too. My daughter also says they can make the “loser” stop talking until someone says the loser’s name 3 times.

  • Reply
    March 4, 2013 at 10:01 am

    When we spoke simultaneous word/words when I was a child, we would make a silent wish and then laugh. Later on we would do the pinky shake, make a silent wish,and then continue with whatever we were doing. I had not heard your version before.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 4, 2013 at 9:55 am

    If it takes a bird brain to interept the tappings of of the wryneck, I ought to be the perfect oracle.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    March 4, 2013 at 9:29 am

    When we were kids, if we said the same thing at the same time, we hooked our pinky fingers together and made a wish. you had to do this before either one of you said anything else for the wish to come true.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    March 4, 2013 at 9:19 am

    I remember that from my childhood too. I am familiar with saying someone is jinxed as well, meaning they seem to have a lot of bad things happen to them. I did not know the word came from a woodpecker. I have learned once again, something new from the Blind Pig! We have a pair of the big woodpeckers around the house. I think they are called Piliated Woodpeckers and old timers called them Indian Hens. They are noisy and have a very distinctive call and beautiful birds.

  • Reply
    March 4, 2013 at 9:14 am

    I’ve never heard of that woodpecker, but I have heard, “jinx, owe me a coke”…also used to say “yellow punch buggie, no punch back” while punching (lightly if you were a kind person) the person next to you when a yellow VW bug drove by…

  • Reply
    March 4, 2013 at 9:02 am

    I had no idea where that saying came from! Thanks, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 4, 2013 at 8:43 am

    The coke thing is universal I think, I remember it from my childhood too. Never heard about the woodpeckers though

  • Reply
    March 4, 2013 at 8:36 am

    When I was a girl, we did the “jinx” thing, but never knew to add the “you owe me a coke” part! If only I would’ve known! 🙂 🙂

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 4, 2013 at 7:55 am

    Never heard of the fortune telling wood pecker. I have, however heard of the jinx when I was a kid.
    I recon that it’s always been that we are looking for the future whether with a wood pecker or the petals on a daisy. It’s just our nature to want to know more than we do.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull, Ph.D.
    March 4, 2013 at 7:47 am

    Well Tipper, speaking of woodpeckers, we have one ‘visiting’ around our bird-feeder and ‘volunteer’ dogwood tree just about everyday – many times a day. There may be more than one (i.e. sweethearts!) but the visitor is pecking out THINGS in the bark of the dogwood!But he rules in the dogwood and his pecking does not sound like a code of some kind. Admittedly, I am not a great birder!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    March 4, 2013 at 6:43 am

    It was done by Woodpecker “Morse Code” just kidden,, I haven’t heard that phrase sense I was in grade school some probable 35 to 40 years ago,, all the kids use to say that… Wow how tradition still lingers….

  • Reply
    March 4, 2013 at 4:43 am

    I have never really payed that much attention to the sound of a woodpecker but maybe they are pecking out morse code and predicting someones future. 🙂
    I all ways thought that a jinx was a person that bad luck all ways followed and it was best to avoid any contact with them. Thanks for the info and have a great day.

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