If you’ve never heard the Yiddish/Hebrew phrase, “kein ayin hara,” get ready to meet your new favorite saying. Literally, these words translate as “no evil eye.” Together, they function as a Jewish “knock on wood.”
The origin of the phrase is the superstition that talking about one’s good fortune attracts the attention of the evil eye, which loves to mess things up.
Uses for this phrase are many:
“My daughter’s more beautiful every day! Kein ayin hara.”
“It looks like we’ve avoided the bed bug infestation happening upstairs! Kein ayin hara.”
Despite its undeniable utility, the phrase hasn’t yet achieved the mainstream success of “schlep,” “putz,” or “kvetch.”
Perhaps the secret to bringing “kein ayin hara” into the spotlight is educating the masses about its pleasurable postscript: a glorious spitting that sounds like “pu pu pu.” According to Jewish grandmothers everywhere, this action provides additional protection against the evil eye. It also makes saying “kein ayin hara” extra fun.
So next time you’re thinking about knocking on wood, it might be worth saying “kein ayin hara—pu pu pu!” instead. Because who needs a crucifix when you can just spit in Yiddish?
Watch Jews try to define “kein ayin hara“: