According to the superstition, uttering the words on the first of the month will make you lucky for the rest of it. Host Rachel Martin speaks with public radio host and word-lover Martha Barnette about where the notion came from.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Rabbit, rabbit. Some of you may have said that first thing this morning. And for those still slowly rising – get to it, it could bring you good luck all month long. Saying rabbit, rabbit on the first of the month is supposed to be a harbinger of good fortune.
Few of us know the history behind this quirky saying. So we thought we’d get to the bottom of this question. Martha Barnette hosts the public radio show A Way With Words. She herself is a word lover, here to share with us some of the history and tradition of rabbit, rabbit. Hey, Martha. Welcome to the show.
MARTHA BARNETTE, BYLINE: Rabbit, rabbit.
MARTIN: Rabbit, rabbit to you. I don’t know, can you use it as a greeting?
BARNETTE: If you haven’t said anything else all day, and so I’ve been saving it.
MARTIN: This is the hard thing, right? Like, you’re supposed to wake up first thing and the first thing out of your mouth on the first day of the month has to be rabbit, rabbit. And then you’re lucky for the rest of the month?
BARNETTE: Exactly, yes. That ensures luck. And we don’t know why, you know, rabbits have been associated with luck of one sort or another – usually good luck – for more than 2,000 years. But it’s only in the early 1900s that we see written references to this superstition.
MARTIN: And it only works with rabbits, right? You can’t say gopher, gopher.
BARNETTE: Yeah. I don’t think that’s going to work as well. But there are different variations of it. I mean, some people say rabbit, rabbit. In the U.K., it’s quite common to say white rabbits. Gilda Radner was someone who was known to say bunny, bunny on the first day of the month; to ensure, as she put it, laughter, love and peace.
MARTIN: Wow. This has been around for a long time?
BARNETTE: At least since the early 1900s. In fact, another aficionado of this practice was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
BARNETTE: Yeah. He was known to carry a rabbit’s foot during the 1932 election. We still have that rabbit’s foot in a museum. And supposedly, he also said rabbit, rabbit at the beginning of every month.
MARTIN: And do you have any idea where this originated, geographically? Was this a British thing and migrated to the U.S., or where did it come from?
BARNETTE: I think you’re right about that. And I’m not aware of any analogous saying in other languages.
MARTIN: And do you remember to do it every month, Martha?
BARNETTE: I resolve to do that, but then I usually forget. There are other people who are much better at that. Simon Winchester, the writer, went for 696 months before he forgot to say white rabbits one day. If you forget, at the end of the day, you can say black rabbit right before you can go to sleep; or you can say tibbar, tibbar.
MARTIN: Tibbar, tibbar?
BARNETTE: It’s rabbit spelled backwards.
MARTIN: Ah. Martha Barnette, host of A Way with Words. She joined us from member station KPBS in San Diego. Thanks so much, Martha.
BARNETTE: Sure thing.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “I AIN’T SUPERSTITIOUS”)
HOWLIN’ WOLF: (Singing) Well, I ain’t superstitious, but a black cat just crossed my trail. Well, I ain’t superstitious, but a black cat just crossed my trail. Don’t sweep me with…
MARTIN: This is NPR News.
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