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Origin of Knocking on Wood
Have you ever wondered what the origin of saying something, and then knocking on wood was? Interestingly enough, there are many cultural reasons that we do this. The most widely believed origin of knocking on wood dates back to the Renaissance era in England. If two people (or more) were in conversation, and one of the parties stated something sensitive, such as a secret or other fragile information, they would knock on wood at the same time as they were saying the information. They did this so that the fairies or spirits of the area wouldn't hear what they said and meddle in their affairs.

This is quite a bit different from how we use the phrase today for good luck!

There are also other origins of the phrase from other cultures which include: 
  • In Indonesia, when someone is saying bad things, the one that hears it would knock on wood (or anything) and knock their forehead saying "amit-amit".
  • In Italy, "tocca ferro" (touch iron) is used, especially after seeing an undertaker or something related to death.[unreliable source?]
  • In Iran, "Bezænæm be Tæchte بزنم به تخته" (knock on the wood), when one says something good about something or somebody, she will knock on the wood, saying "bezan-am be takhteh, cheshm nakhoreh" ([I] am knocking on the wood, to prevent -it, he, or she- from being jinxed). Evil eye, and being jinxed is a common phobia & superstitious belief in the Iranian culture. Iranians traditionally believe knocking on the wood wards off evil spirits.
  • In Egypt, "Emsek El Khashab إمسك الخشب" (Hold the wood), people say it when mention good luck that you have had in the past or when you mention hopes you have for the future. The expression is usually used in the hope that a good thing will continue to occur after it has been acknowledged. And to prevent Envy
  • In Romania, there is also a superstition that one can avoid bad things aforementioned by literally knocking on wood ("a bate în lemn"). Wood tables are exempted. One of the possible reasons could be that there is a monastery practice to call people to pray by playing / knocking the simantron.
  • In Bulgaria the superstition of "knock on wood" (чукам на дърво) is reserved for protection against the evil, and is not typically used for attracting good luck. Usually people engage in the practice in reaction to bad news, actual or merely imagined. In most cases the nearest wooden object is used (in some areas, however, tables are exempt); if there are no such objects within immediate reach, a common tongue-in-cheek practice is to knock on one's head. Knocking on wood is often followed by lightly pulling one's earlobe with the same hand. Common phrases to accompany the ritual are "God guard us" (Бог да ни пази) and "May the Devil not hear" (Да не чуе Дяволът).
  • In Croatia and Serbia there is also the habit of knocking on wood when saying something positive or affirmative about someone or something and not wanting that to change. Frequently the movement of knocking on nearby wood is followed by "Da pokucam u drvo" (да куцнем у дрво) (I will knock on wood), or sometimes by "Da ne ureknem" (да не урекнем) (I don't want to jinx it).
  • In Poland, as well as in Russia, there is a habit of knocking on (unpainted) wood (which may be preceded by saying odpukać w niemalowane drewno or simplyodpukać, literally meaning to knock on unpainted wood) when saying something negative - to prevent it from happening - or, more rarely, something positive - in order not to "spoil it". In Czech Republic, this is often accompanied for stronger effect by knocking on one's teeth, a piece of building stone, or metal, reasoning that these (as opposed to wood) survive even fire.
  • In Turkey, when someone hears about a bad experience someone else had, he/she may gently pull one earlobe, and knock on a wood twice, which means "God save me from that thing."
  • In the United States of America in the eighteenth century, men used to knock on the wood stock of their muzzle-loading rifles to settle the black powder charge, ensuring the weapon would fire cleanly.