If table talk at Thanksgiving dinner grinds to a halt following dissections of weather, football, and rogue relatives, you may wish to bring up the seasonally relevant topic of wishbones. Here are 12 ways to ensure that you will be invited back for Thanksgiving next year.
1. Almost 3000 years ago, Etruscans, who lived in what is now central Italy, believed that birds, especially geese, could foretell the future. Among other rituals, the Etruscans would sun-dry the V-shaped bone from the neck and preserve it in hopes that it would retain some of the fowl’s magic powers. They would stroke the bone and make a wish—hence wishbone.
2. The Romans adopted many Etruscan customs; but in the course of seeking good fortune, they squabbled over wishbones and broke them. The loser likely skulked away muttering, “I never get a lucky break.”
3. The Romans took this custom to England. By 1607 a wishbone there was called a merrythought, because the bone-breaking contestant with the longer end would soon be married.
4. The Scots quantitated this prediction by drilling a hole through the flat part and then placing the wishbone over the bridge of a girl’s nose. The number of times she took to successfully pass a thread through the hole was the number of years until she would be married. (I guess good near vision was considered a favorable trait in a wife.)
5. When the Europeans settled America, the fortune-telling capabilities of European fowl were conveniently transferred to the readily available turkey.
6. A wishbone amulet signifies that the owner has a special wish, one that should be repeated every time the amulet is worn. Jennifer Aniston wore a gold wishbone in the 2010 movie, He Is Just Not That Into You.
7. The wishbone consists of both collar bones fused together.
8. Some birds, including toucans and owls, do not have wishbones.
9. Cranes and falcons have rigid wishbones, which may help them breathe.
10. Some dinosaurs, including Tyrannosaurus rex, also had rigid wishbones. The T. rex wishbone was over a foot long.
11. Turkeys, chickens, and starlings have wishbones that are springy.
12. To determine the function of springy wishbones, ever-curious scientists placed starlings in a wind tunnel and took X-rays while the birds flew in place. They discovered that with every powerful down stroke of the wings, the ends of the wishbone move apart and store energy. Then with the recovery upstroke, the wishbone springs back to its resting shape. Flying is thereby more efficient.
ABOUTBONE takes no responsibility for any changes in next year’s holiday-table seating plan resulting from your use of these essential turkey-time facts.
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