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Friday, May 7, 2010

German Backstage Etiquette

Superstition may be almost extinguished in civilized countries, but certainly not in our theaters. In Germany we wish each other toi, toi, toi which is widely believed to be a substitute for the wellwisher's spitting over his or her friend's shoulder. Actually toi, toi, toi is a rudimentary form of a curse: Teufel, Teufel, Teufel, meaning three times devil. You must never ever answer a toi, toi, toi by a thank you, unless you want to invoke bad luck. The correct answer is Hals und Beinbruch or break neck and leg, a translation of the Yiddish hasloche un' broche.

6 comments:

  1. Since I am running across hundreds of chemical toilets painted with bold letters TOI TOI, I don´t like this triple TOI any more. German theatre people may not having realized this dirty reference because they pronounce TOILET in a French manner and TOI TOI TOI in the english way.

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  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Bough

    When people do not know what else to speak about, they usually speak of the weather. "The Tempest" is usually considered Shakespeare's last play and the last thing Edoardo De Filippo wrote, was a translation of "The Tempest" into the dialect of Naples. Lately climate change has become a theme which makes it hard to distinguish science from superstition (and economy from meteorology). We are all longing for the White Albatross's jolly company.

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  3. The seamen considered all the procellariiformes as birds of bad fortune, because these birds use to search protection on ships when a storm is about to arrive. The Ancient Mariner killing the albatross is killing a messenger of truth. The stubborn messengers of truth today are being killed as well, or at least use to be slandered. Superstition can sometimes be wiser and establish rituals preventing from such rude reactions. Frazer in defense (!) of superstition has written therefore a whole book on the "reasonable sense" of superstitious rites shaped by long empiric habituation: "The Devil's Advocate".

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  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil's_advocate

    Hitchens and the Pope are competing while pretending to be the white albatross.

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  5. There's also the superstition in theater surrounding "the Scottish play."

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  6. I habe learned that "toi, toi, toi" is a acustic symbol for spitting three times. To wish luck you use spitting OVER the shoulder. hp

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