Perhaps one of the best-known superstitions, one that’s been around for thousands of years and is still going strong, is the concept of the evil eye, the idea that certain people can cause you harm or wish you evil simply by looking at you. Superstitions come from the belief that through our actions, we can have some influence on the mysterious workings of the world. You can imagine how in ancient times, when people were powerless against mysterious diseases and often hungry in hostile environments, they were anxious to do anything that might influence their fate.
Enter the Yiddish saying Kine Ahora. The derivation of the phrase is from the German kein, meaning no, and the Hebrew ayin ha-rah, the evil eye, literally meaning no evil eye. The kein and ayin are blended into one word: keinahora. Pronounced: kin-uh-HAH-ruh or ken-uh-HAH-ruh, and spelled in a variety of ways in English - kaynahara, kine ahora, kein ayin hara, this word is said to ward off the evil eye or other bad luck, similar to knocking on wood. Jews are not the only ethnic or religious group to believe, at least a little bit, in superstitions. But maybe we put a greater stock in them because of what we’ve experienced in the past 5,000 years.
The concern was that bragging about one’s good fortune would anger an envious human being or the random dybbuk, golem, or goblin who might be lurking about, waiting to cast their evil eye on you. That’s why Bubbes everywhere will tell you it’s wise to avoid boasting about your success, your good news, or the accomplishments of your children. But if you slip up and brag – or if someone compliments you, you can quickly respond with "Kine Ahora.
Also, as Jewish Grandmothers know, the key to making this saying stick is the additional spitting that sounds like “pu pu pu" at the end. Simply spit through your fingertips three times after you say “Kine Ahora.” This is from the days when medicines were rare and saliva was thought to have medicinal, restorative properties. Since we now know that spitting spreads germs, you can simply say, “Kine Ahora, pu, pu, pu” and hope the evil eye won’t know you are just pretending to spit. It not only adds additional protection against the evil eye, but it makes saying it extra fun. It is hard to believe that despite its undeniable utility, this phrase hasn’t yet achieved the mainstream success of “schlep,” “putz,” or “kvetch!”
So next time you’re thinking about knocking on wood, it might be worth saying “Kine Ahora—pu pu pu!” instead.
5 ways to ward off a Kine Ahora:
- Knock on wood
- Wear an amulet depicting the evil eye
- Have a Hamsa handy
- Eat large amounts of garlic (wards off vampires too)
- Say Kine Ahora, pu, pu, pu