Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Cross Your Fingers

Posted by Elyse Bruce on July 30, 2010

The expression “cross your fingers” comes with the superstition that keeping your fingers crossed keeps evil and bad luck away from the person crossing their fingers.

However, there are some people who will try to tell you that if you cross your fingers when you lie, the lie doesn’t count.  So just how old is this expression and where did it come from originally?

In 1912, Ella Mary Leather published a book entitled The Folk-Lore of Herefordshire: Collected from Oral and Printed Sources that stated:

The ill-luck supposed to follow a passage beneath a ladder may be averted by crossing the fingers and thumbs.”

In 1924, the year of the  1924 American Presidential Election, the Ladies’ Home Journal ran an article that contained this interesting phrase:

This is the year to keep your fingers crossed and announce yourself from Missouri.”

That being said, the earliest reference found that relates to crossing one’s fingers was found in the book The Outdoor Handy Book by Daniel Carter Beard published in 1900 that states:

“. . . they call it ‘King’s Cross,’ ‘King’s X,’ ‘King’s Excuse,’ and cross the first and second fingers to proclaim a truce. Here we have a combination of the king and the church that insures the safety of the player.”

And now you know why if you’ve been caught dead to rights and red-handed with your hand in the cookie jar, a slap on the wrist won’t come about because of crossed fingers.

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