Though real or pretended spitting 'for luck' or to repel *witchcraft and the *evil eye is an ancient device, concern for hygiene and good manners makes it rare now. However, there are many references to people spitting on a *coin for luck, especially one unexpectedly found or given, or won in a bet; spitting on one's hands before fighting, or when embarking on a tough piece of work, was still done by schoolboys in the 1950s (Rad-ford, Radford, and Hole, 1961: 318-20; Opie and Tatem, 1989: 372-4). Children spit on seeing or doing anything reckoned unlucky (Opie and Opie, 1959: 206-20). They lick a finger before making cross-my-heart or cut-my-throat gestures when swearing to the truth of something, often with the formula:
   My finger's wet, my finger's dry, Cut my throat if I tell a lie. (Opie and Opie, 1959: 126-8)
   Another widespread and ancient belief was that spittle had healing properties, especially if used early in the day, before eating or drinking anything; it was applied to sore eyes, warts, cuts and grazes, babies' rashes, birthmarks, and even deformities in babies (Radford, Radford, and Hole, 1961: 319-20).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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