How did the expression "knock on wood" come about?
KNOCK ON WOOD: There are several theories about the origin of this very common practice. One goes back to the child's game of `tag.' In one version of this game the child who is able to touch a tree, thereby touching wood, is free from capture.
Then there is a Biblical theory that the wood symbolizes the cross on which Christ was crucified. In Galatians (6:14) we find `But God forbid that I should glory, save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.' The theory here is that if you have made an exaggerated boast you will be forgiven if you turn your thoughts to the Cross.
Still another notion is that `knocking on wood' goes far back into ancient times, when spirits were thought to live in trees. So should danger threaten, simply rap on the trunk of a tree and summon up the aid of the good spirit within.
There is an Irish belief that you `knock on wood' to let the leprechauns know that you are thanking them for a bit of good luck.
A Jewish version says it originated during the Spanish Inquisition under Torquemada during the 1490s. During that time Jews were in flight and since temples and synagogues were built of wood, they evolved a code to use in knocking on doors to gain admission. Since this resulted in lives being saved, it became commonplace to `knock on wood' for good luck.
Take your choice of these five theories - but be sure to `knock on wood' so you will pick the right one.
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (BBC)
4 weeks ago