Don’t Jinx it!

It’s a rule in baseball that you never, ever comment on a no-hitter in progress, because doing so will cause the next batter or the following to make contact with the ball and ruin the no-hitter. Likewise, when giving ride reports in an airplane, you always say, “Smooth so far,” because if you don’t, well, you’ll bounce for the rest of the flight. To speak is to jinx, to bring an end to the good thing in progress. “Well, nothing’s broken yet.” “It’s working OK, so far.” Because the Powers of Luck are always listening and just waiting to ruin your day.

I was reminded of this law the other day, when one of the local weather-guessers smiled too happily and announced that we were guaranteed to get up to eight inches of snow this weekend. The National Weather Service text forecast held a 100% chance of snow.

Dooooooooomed. We’ll get two flakes and the Single-Digit-Salute from the storm as it races off to bury Oklahoma or the wet parts of Texas with more wet. The forecast low temperatures, however, I do trust. Our regional record low is -20 F, back in the early 1900s. We used to bounce off the -5 F temperatures every winter. According to the weather guessers, it’s been a decade since we last did that. *shrug* You can’t jinx record high or low temps. Because you don’t want either of those, so of course you get them. The good stuff? Very jinxable.

The word jinx is an Americanism that comes from an English word (jynx) meaning a magic charm. Beyond that? Possibly from Greek, or maybe not.


22 thoughts on “Don’t Jinx it!

  1. True (mostly) story: I once worked as a test reactor operator. The plant operated at the whim of the experiment requirements, so continuous operation was not always the goal. During a couple of weeks of continuous, steady state operation, the newly minted Shift Supervisor walked into the control room and uttered these infamous words; “It’s pretty boring when the plant is operating isn’t it?” Almost immediately, the reactor SCRAMed (Automatic shutdown) three times in the next hour. We recovered twice but were unable to recover from the third. We were shutdown for about 48 hours while Xenon-135 (strong neutron poison fission product) decayed enough for a restart. Boring was banned from our vocabulary after that.

  2. I’m finding that in doing practice tests for the amateur radio license exams. They’re all multiple choice with a published, large question pool, but there are questions that differ by one or two words from another, and answers that differ by one word or one letter. Going into a practice test with “I’ve got it, will do 100%” can make for some interesting results. I’ve learned to carefully parse the questions, and even more carefully parse the answers. (I still need to read the questions even more carefully at times.)

    Passing is 74%, but if I’m not in the high 90s, I’m not thrilled. Some of this stuff (semiconductors) was my career. It’s really embarrassing when I screw up one of those questions.

    • That’s the way Advanced Placement tests are, and FAA tests. That very small, two or three word (or digit) difference will get you. And it is hard to stay alert after 45 minutes of complicated questions and answers.

    • The fun thing is that of the four possible answers, one is right, one is *almost* right, one is not right, and one is “are fscking kidding me?”

      A couple examples, likely LONG gone from the question/answer pools….

      “The ionosphere is…” “…the little ball on the end of an antenna.” (This was So Silly it was *immediately* adopted amongst some of us…)

      “An oscilliocope displays…” “…ship semaphore signals”

      So, the of the 4 answers, it was really only three to even think about and only two to think hard about, for quite a few. As the test advanced and they become both technically complex AND more about legalities/rules than tech, the Obvious Nonsense *seemed* to decrease. But then, Ancient Creature is Ancient and my first HF rig glowed in the dark… and doubled as a space heater.

        • Yesterday, I went through the individual sections on Ham Study. My goal was to reach the (ill-defined) 90% aptitude score in each section. Done. Technician is easy, usually (so long as I remember the regulations), and Extra is straightforward after a bunch of study, but General can trip me up a little. Never had to do much with RF until the last year of my career. (Short, intense, and lucrative. S11 FTW!) I still get tangled on propagation issues. I’ll learn.

          Yeah, some of the wrong answers are hilarious. Had to search a bit; they were getting too reasonable:

          Q: Why shouldn’t you put a generator in an occupied area?

          A: Danger of engine over torque

          Oh, personal favorite in Technician:

          Q: What instrument other than an SWR meter could you use to determine if a feed line and antenna are properly matched?

          A: Iambic pentameter

          Is this a meter which I see before me?
          The controls toward my hand? Come, let me tweek thee.
          I match it not, and yet I transmit still.


    • Like the dressage test you and your horse can do foot-perfect at home with your instructor, and then screw up big time when you come to do it for real and the plastic bag/loose horse/loose dog/invisible varmint@C (delete as applicable) are the cause for your normally-bomb-proof mount to throw a hissy fit at the most inopportune moment!

  3. The “Q” word is banned from my workplace. The only way to forestall Le Deluge is if, after someone utters the dreaded phrase “It’s Q—t.” to immediately response in horror movie terms, “Too q—t!”

  4. The one I’ve always noticed is in football, whenever the announcer says, “The quarterback has plenty of time,” the sack is virtually guaranteed. Although that one at least has a reason: by the time the announcer has noticed that the quarterback has plenty of time, then SAYS the quarterback has plenty of time…well, it usually turns out that they didn’t have THAT much time.

  5. The tests I hated were the multiple choice ones written with the three wrong answers written so that each one was the logical result of a common error or misperception.
    The other ones were those where the outset of the problem had lots of detail on issues and problems other than the one being tested in that question.
    And Murphy. Where the test has absolutely nothing to do with the study materials.

    • The ham radio tests are interesting. Just hard enough to discourage the punters, and just easy enough to let the dedicated make it with some study. (A couple of well-aged EE degrees helped in my case.) The entire test pool for each exam is freely published, and the various test prep outfits generally use the questions as the basis for the instruction. (The ARRL goes further, within limits.) The downside is while you have enough to answer the questions, if you really want to use the material, more study might well needed. It’s been almost a half century since I used a Smith chart, and the test prep stuff doesn’t leave me able to do so just yet. (Makes note to see if any RF books are in the college text stash.)

      Unless you do something silly like study for the previous edition of the exam (updated every few years) or not study at all, you shouldn’t be surprised.

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