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Mod­ern eti­quette dic­tates that if two peo­ple start to speak at the same time, they both break off and, amidst a great deal of te­dious, Mrs Doyle style after-you-ing, de­fer to each other. If you hap­pen to be un­der 16, though, mod­ern eti­quette dic­tates that if two peo­ple be­gin to speak at the same time, they both shout ‘jinx!’ as quickly as pos­si­ble, with which­ever party is un­for­tu­nate enough to fin­ish sec­ond in this jinx race banned from speak­ing again un­til the vic­tor ut­ters their name. If, by some chance, the silent party does speak be­fore his name is called, he then owes his si­lencer, as it were, a Coke. I’m not sure if this is ac­tu­ally writ­ten down in De­brett’s, but I’d sug­gest that if it isn’t, then it is a grave omis­sion in­deed.

Man­ners evolve, of course. When I was grow­ing up, the business of two peo­ple speak­ing at once was dealt with dif­fer­ently. There were two schools of thought: one held that both peo­ple should shout ‘pinch you, sur­prise me, what day will it be?’, while ad­min­is­ter­ing a pinch to the other per­son. Who­ever fin­ished last would then be obliged to nom­i­nate a day on which they would ‘sur­prise’ the other per­son (pre­sum­ably, in a pleas­ant, wel­come way). Almost in­evitably, though, the sur­priser would re­spond to this kind invitation by shout­ing out ‘now!’ and then roar­ing. We had no in­ter­net then: we had to make our own fun.

The sec­ond way of deal­ing with the thorny two-peo­ple-speak­ing-at- once is­sue in­volved both peo­ple shout­ing ‘jinx!’ – so far, so con- ven­tional – and the jinxed party then be­ing un­able to speak un­til they had seen a P&T van pass them. There are a mil­lion rea­sons why this prac­tice wouldn’t work to­day. But back then, orange P&T vans were ev­ery­where – a re­flec­tion of both an er­ratic tele­phone sys­tem and a thriv­ing postal one – and so it didn’t usu­ally take long for one to pass. I should also point out that I grew up very close to a P&T de­pot, and so if a jinxed per­son needed to speak ur­gently, they could just wan­der down St Peter’s Road. Nowa­days though, young­sters

The jinxed per­son couldn’t speak un­til they had seen an orange P&T van go by. We had no in­ter­net, we had to make our own fun

tend not to gather on neigh­bour­hood gar­den walls, where vans might pass in the first place. If the ex­pe­ri­ence of my chil­dren is any­thing to go by, most mod­ern jinxes are ad­min­is­tered in liv­ing rooms, where young men gather to look silently at their phones in company, and no vans of any sort ven­ture past.

Fart­ing is a dif­fer­ent ball game en­tirely. Girls, of course, don’t fart at all, but when I was grow­ing up, if one slipped out in, say, the company of fam­ily, the cor­rect eti­quette was to call out ‘ taxi’. Fail­ure to do so usu­ally re­sulted in a sib­ling roar­ing ‘sixer!’ and giv­ing six punches to the fore­arm of the far­tee. I note that amongst The Boy’s peers, a sim­i­lar prac­tice is ob­served to­day: to wit, the farter shouts a pro­phy­lac­tic ‘taxi’, while his com­pan­ions rush to shout ‘pubs’. If the pubs peo­ple pre­vail, then the farter must name three pubs while his com­pan­ions mer­rily punch him. Oh, how th­ese longer nights fly.

While I am still down with mod­ern man­ners, we will shortly ar­rive at another dilemma – what on Earth are you sup­posed to say when you knock on a neigh­bour’s door on Hal­lowe’en night? When I was young, the only line in town was ‘help the Hal­lowe’en party’, even though the party men­tioned never ma­te­ri­alised. Then the odi­ous ‘trick or treat’ ar­rived – to my mind, an even worse lie than the Hal­lowe’en party business, on the ba­sis that I have yet to en­counter a young rev­eller who’s ac­tu­ally got a trick pre­pared up his shiny sleeve. Our house did get egged one year, though I don’t re­call it be­ing a re­sult of our invit­ing a trick or treater to give us his best shot. In any event, in re­cent years, I’ve no­ticed our young sea­sonal call­ers tend to say noth­ing at all, which is even more de­press­ing than the Simp­sons-es­que ap­proach to a fes­ti­val that is, after all, Ir­ish. So this year, let’s en­cour­age the lit­tle folk to speak up, prefer­ably all at once. Then you and I can roar ‘jinx’ at them, and then eat the con­tents of their goodie bags in glo­ri­ous si­lence, un­til such time as a P&T van passes by.

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