A curious British tradition sees people saying “A pinch and a punch, first day of the month” on the, yes, you guessed it, first day of a month. It is one of those curious habits that Brits do not really question but leaves foreigners rather perplexed. Some people even expand the phrase by saying “White Rabbits, White Rabbits” before the phrase. Others respond by saying “A slap and a kick for being so quick” or the more common West country derived phrase “a flick and a kick for being so quick”.
Many believe this superstition is carried out to bring good luck if said before midday.
There are some elaborate theories regarding this strange habit. Some credit it to President George Washington in the United States who met local Indian tribes on the first day of every month. He provided a fruit punch with a pinch of salt at these meetings. This is unlikely considering the superstition has been recognised as a British and Australian habit for longer.
Others say it goes much further back into our past, to medieval times. Salt was believed to weaken witches so the pinch was a reference to salt and the punch was given to defeat the witch. Sounds like a feeble excuse for some aggressive misogyny.
The phrases are full of threat of violence, and are common place in playgrounds up and down the country, accompanied by physical punching, kicking and slapping. Playground “rules” (a field of anthropological research and fascination in itself) are that delivering the violent greeting then calling “White Rabbits! No return” protects you from the slap and kick response.
The “White Rabbit” addition to this curious superstition was first recorded in a British
Folklore published in 1909. A mother stated “My two daughters are in the habit of saying ‘rabbits’ on the first day of each month. The word must be spoken aloud, and be the first word said in the month. It brings luck for that month. Other children, I find, use the same formula.”
“White Rabbits” was also apparently something RAF bomber crews would say as they woke up to help bring luck.
Nobody really knows why we do this, where or when it comes from and how such strange behaviour is believed to bring luck. I always considered it an excuse for minor acts of violence as a child, it seems an inevitable precursor to violent escalation. As an adult, it is reduced to a competition of memory. Who will remember to do it first at the start of a month in our circle of friends.
At Bulldogz we are unaware of any equivalent superstition in Spanish, but we are sure if there is one, it will involve food somehow.
Pinch and a Punch, first day of the month, White Rabbits! No returns!