Why Can’t I Have Just One Hijink?

“Hijinks” is a weird word. I mean, most words are weird, but this one goes above and beyond.

Hijinks are fun, possibly mischievous activities. We use it as a plural noun, except we don’t really know what a “hijink” is, or why we never seem to have just one of them. So what is the freakin’ deal?

ETYMOLOGY ADVENTURE COMMENCE!

“Hijinks” is a variation of “high jinks,” which – around the 1700s – was a drinking game. You’d roll dice, and if you got a bad roll, you either had to do something embarrassing, or drink. (Thanks, Readers Digest!)

That name, in turn, was based on the word “jinks,” meaning playful activities – pretty much the same thing as “hijinks.” (Still plural-only, apparently.) And “jinks” is apparently related to the Old English “cincung,” which – I am told – means “a loud or cackling laughter.”

Another meaning of “jink” – singular this time – is swift or evasive movement. But it’s not clear (to me, at least) whether that has any connection to the meanings above.

Then of course there’s “jinx,” a hex or a curse. Sounds like it might be related, but actually it’s from the Latin “jynx,” or wryneck, a type of woodpecker evidently used in magic.

Which is funny to me, because “Jynx” is the name of a Pokemon, a deliberate misspelling of “jinx,” but more correct than they thought, since “jinx” was spelled with a “y” in the first place. (I do not expect this to be funny to anyone else.)

All that is a long way of saying that “jinx” is probably unrelated to “hijinks,” and I still don’t know why you can’t have just one “hijink,” and thus I’ve completely wasted your time. Have a good day!

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8 responses to “Why Can’t I Have Just One Hijink?

  1. I did find it funny.
    The jynx thing 😀

  2. A plural only noun is called a pluralia tantum (oddly enough, Latin for “plural only”). And there are lots of them. Suds is another good one.

  3. Plus, of course, “Jinkies!” 🙂

    There’s a motorcycle gang in my writing called The Jinx, and I think I chose the name (or they did) because it’s a singular word that sounds plural, and they are many (plural) but very tightly knit (singular).

    And they may have a negative effect on your life.: -)

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