Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit: three cartoons for the 1st

It’s May Day, an ancient spring festival — think maypoles and all that — so, the beginning of the cycle of the seasons. (Everybody knows the Vivaldi. Try listening instead to the Haydn, here.) And it’s the first of the month, an occasion for still other rituals, including one that calls for everyone to greet the new month, upon awakening, by saying “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” (or some variant thereof). There’s even a Rabbit Rabbit Day Facebook community, with this page art (not attributed to an artist):


The three-rabbit variant is the one I’m familiar with. (I got it as an adult from Ann Daingerfield Zwicky. Since she was from the South, I thought it was a specifically Southern thing. But today I learned, from an astonishingly detailed Wikipedia page, that that is very much not so.)

Today also brought a Facebook posting from my friend Mary Ballard, to whom the whole inaugural-rabbit thing was news, and, by good fortune, three cartoons from various sources: a Bizarro I’ve already posted about; a Mother Goose and Grimm with an outrageous bit of language play; and a Calvin and Hobbes reflection on the meaning of the verb read.

rabbit rabbit rabbit. The Wikipedia piece, almost in its entirety:

“Rabbit rabbit rabbit” is one variant of a superstition found in Britain and North America that states that a person should say or repeat the word “rabbit” or “rabbits”, or “white rabbits”, or some combination of these elements, out loud upon waking on the first day of the month, because doing so will ensure good luck for the duration of that month.

The exact origin of the superstition is unknown, though it was recorded in Notes and Queries as being said by children in 1909:

“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. [So in the earliest citations, it’s childlore.]

In response to this note another contributor said that his daughter believed that the outcome would be a present, and that the word must be spoken up the chimney to be most effective; another pointed out that the word rabbit was often used in expletives, and suggested that the superstition may be a survival of the ancient belief in swearing as a means of avoiding evil. [There are attestations of rabbit as a milder version of drat, itself a euphemism for damn.] People continue to express curiosity about the origins of this superstition and draw upon it for inspiration in making calendars suggestive of the Labors of the Months, thus linking the rabbit rabbit superstition to seasonal fertility.

It appeared in a work of fiction in 1922:

“Why,” the man in the brown hat laughed at him, “I thought everybody knew ‘Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.’ If you say ‘Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit’—three times, just like that—first thing in the morning on the first of the month, even before you say your prayers, you’ll get a present before the end of the month.

Chapter 1 of the Trixie Belden story The Mystery of the Emeralds (1962) is titled “Rabbit! Rabbit!” and discusses the tradition:

Trixie Belden awoke slowly, with the sound of a summer rain beating against her window. She half-opened her eyes, stretched her arms above her head, and then, catching sight of a large sign tied to the foot of her bed, yelled out, “Rabbit! Rabbit!” She bounced out of bed and ran out of her room and down the hall. “I’ve finally done it!” she cried […] “Well, ever since I was Bobby’s age I’ve been trying to remember to say ‘Rabbit! Rabbit!’ and make a wish just before going to sleep on the last night of the month. If you say it again in the morning, before you’ve said another word, your wish comes true.” Trixie laughed.

In the United States the tradition appears especially well-known in northern New England although, like all folklore, determining its exact area of distribution is difficult. The superstition may be related to the broader belief in the rabbit or hare being a “lucky” animal, as exhibited in the practice of carrying a rabbit’s foot for luck.

During the mid-1990s, U.S. children’s cable channel Nickelodeon helped popularize the superstition in the United States as part of its “Nick Days,” where during commercial breaks it would show an ad about the significance of the current date, whether it be an actual holiday, a largely uncelebrated unofficial holiday, or a made-up day if nothing else is going on that specific day. (The latter would be identified as a “Nickelodeon holiday.”) Nickelodeon would promote the last day of each month as “Rabbit Rabbit Day” and to remind kids to say it the next day, unless the last day of that specific month was an actual holiday, such as Halloween or New Year’s Eve. This practice stopped by the late 1990s.

… As with most folklore, which is traditionally spread by word of mouth, there are numerous variants of the superstition, in some cases specific to a certain time period or region.

– “When I was a very little boy I was advised to always murmur ‘White rabbits’ on the first of every month if I wanted to be lucky. From sheer force of unreasoning habit I do it still — when I think of it. I know it to be preposterously ludicrous, but that does not deter me.” – Sir Herbert Russell, 1925.

– “Even Mr. Roosevelt, the President of the United States, has confessed to a friend that he says ‘Rabbits’ on the first of every month — and, what is more, he would not think of omitting the utterance on any account.” – Newspaper article, 1935.

– “On the first day of the month say ‘Rabbit! rabbit! rabbit!’ and the first thing you know you will get a present from someone you like very much.” Collected by the researcher Frank C. Brown in North Carolina in the years between 1913 and 1943.

– “If you say ‘Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit’ the first thing when you wake up in the morning on the first of each month you will have good luck all month.” Collected by Wayland D. Hand in Pennsylvania before 1964.

– “Say ‘Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit’ at the first of the month for good luck and money.” Collected by Ernest W. Baughman in New Mexico before 1964.

– “…it must be ‘White Rabbit’ … but you must also say ‘Brown Rabbit’ at night and walk downstairs backwards.” Reported in a small survey that took place in Exeter, Devon in 1972.

– “Ever since I was 4 years old, I have said ‘White Rabbits’ at the very moment of waking on every single first day of every single month that has passed.” Simon Winchester, 2006.

– “…the more common version ‘rabbit, rabbit, white rabbit’ should be said upon waking on the first day of each new month to bring good luck.” Sunday Mirror, 2007.

(Sources for all the citations are given as footnotes in the Wikipedia article.)

The three cartoons. The Bizarro played on a recent Pepsi ad exploiting protestor-police interactions. The other two:


(Note that this is a meta-cartoon, in which the characters recognize that they are in fact characters in a cartoon.)

The idiom leave no stone unturned ‘try every possible course of action in order to achieve something’, with the /ston/ and /trn/ pieces interchanged (spooneristically), taking advantage of the ambiguities in /trn/: (verb turned, noun tern) and /ston/ (noun stone, adjectival use of the PSP stoned ‘under the influence of marijuana’.


Calvin extends the use of the verb read not only to cover the territory of skim ‘read (something) quickly or cursorily so as to note only the important points’ (NOAD2), as people sometimes do, hopefully or deceptively, but goes all the way to ‘turn the pages from beginning to end’ (without any engagement of eyes on text, much less extraction of meaning).

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