chairs


chairs
   A mixed collection of beliefs focus on chairs. A well-attested idea known to *card-players is that you can 'turn your chair and change your luck'. In many cases this was taken literally and the chair turned round three (or more) times, others simply changed chairs. This notion is first reported in the early 18th century, and relatively regularly well into the 20th century. In another context, however, turning a chair round in someone else's house means you would quarrel (Hone, 1832: 126). Still current, even if only jokingly, is the idea that young women should avoid sitting on a chair which has just been vacated by a pregnant woman, as they will soon become pregnant if they do. This is frequently heard in modern offices which have young female staff, but it is difficult to gauge how old it is as, apart from one reference in Opie and Tatem, it seems to have escaped the notice of folklorist writers. In the experience of the present editors it was certainly extant in the 1960s if not before. Another chair belief, reported here from Lincolnshire: 'When having a meal with an acquaintance, do not push your chair under the table when you get up, or you will not come there again for a meal' (Folk-Lore 44 (1933), 196). Opie and Tatem include a similar report collected in Yorkshire in 1963. Knocking over a chair is also deemed ominous - 'You won't be married this year' in 1738, but in 20th-century hospitals it meant that a new patient, or emergency case, would soon be arriving.
   ■ Opie and Tatem, 1989: 68-9, 318; Lean, 1903: ii. 42, 158, 321, 573.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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