cootie catcher

a children’s game involving folded paper


cootie catcher = Papierfaltspiel, Fingerspiel: Himmel und Hölle, Pfeffer und Salz



 "A girl stands up to Binky, and Prunella's COOTIE CATCHER has the answer to everything."

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 cootie catcher

- A form of origami with hidden fortunes, activities, etc., written on the folds, and used mainly in children's games, where a person is asked to choose a fold to open.



You may also hear cootie catcher called fortune teller, chatterbox, whirlybird, or salt cellar, and that last name is actually reflective of how the origami figure was first introduced to the United States. The 1928 book Fun with Paper Folding contained the “salt cellar,” which, when inverted from how we’re used to seeing it today, was meant to invoke a container that could hold and pour salt. The points of a cootie catcher become legs and the spaces for fingers open up to hold the salt.

The exact timeline for the introduction of the cootie catcher around the world is somewhat unclear. Most sources suggest it’s possible that it appeared in Europe as early as the 17th century. It’s safe to say though that by the 1950s, cootie catchers had started to appear in England and the United States, and propagated from there.

Today, the game is played all over the world, and each place has its own name for cootie catcher.

As for the name: Most sources believe the word “cootie” came from the Malay word kutu, meaning “dog tick,” (tick = Zecke) and was brought back by British soldiers after World War I. Some books include mentions of the “cooties” as bugs or dots drawn into the center of the cootie catcher, so the legs act as pincers, swallowing the germs up. Girls were often the ones ridding each other of said cooties, intermixed with the telling of each other's fortunes.

Adapted from Caitlin Schneider (Mental Floss)

Practice OWAD in a conversation today, say something like:

"Hey Monika, how about we have some fun and make a COOTIE CATCHER in the coffee break today? Here's the link on Youtube and we only need one sheet of paper: "

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