Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Knock on Wood

In law school, for the first time in my life, I became a little superstitious. If people asked me how I thought I did on an exam, I would try to avoid speculating. If I ever said I thought I did well, I would always knock on wood, just in case, to dispel any evil spirits lured by such a display of hubris. I still knock on wood. It has become a second nature to me. I knocked on wood just recently as I was speaking with an emeritus faculty member who is Jewish. He noticed and told me that the Yiddish version of that would be "keine ahore" (though I have probably spelled it wrongly -- anybody with Yiddische out there?). He explained it's pronounced cane-uh au-hore-uh. And derives from the German word keine, which I recognize, meaning none, or no; and the Hebrew word Ahore (again, sorry about spelling!), evil eye. So, the saying is to avert the evil eye. He said no Yiddish speaker of his youth would ever say their son was successful without adding, "keine ahore," to avert the evil eye. Knock on wood!

We do these things, I guess, to give ourselves the feeling we have some control in times when we feel that our world is out of our control. Perhaps the fact that I began to be superstitious in law school tells me that for the first time in my academic career, I felt that I did not know whether my previous success or skills learned would carry me through. Law school is different from any other school, and is set up in an insane way to allow the entire grade of most classes to hang on a single final exam. How crazy is that? No wonder our law students get a little nutsy at exam time. It's been so long since I've been there, done that, that I have sometimes been less sympathetic. Of course no amount of stress excuses the outrageous behavior that some students engage in, but I do need to remind myself of the stress they are under as law students. Knock on wood!

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