Oops, you’ve just said something terrible, or perhaps something you shouldn’t have said at all. You don’t want to invite the bad luck that will inevitably accompany your careless remarks, but what can you do? Knock on wood, of course. But why do we do that?

Most of us have been there. Spates of your friends have broken their arm recently. You then proudly announce, “I’ve never broken a bone in my life.” After blurting the sentiment out, you quickly look for a piece of pine or oak to rap your knuckles against, to ward off any possible blowback or karmic retribution.

There are a few explanations about how this superstition came into being. The most commonly accepted one dates from back in the day, when people still believed in the actuality of spirits living in the trees. Physical contact with these trees could help keep evil omens from becoming a reality. Later connections to the wood of the crucifixion cross have also been offered up as possible origins.

The English, like their American counterparts, also hold to this superstition, but rather than knock on wood, they simply ‘touch’ it. Regardless if it’s a touch or a knock, it’s always a good idea to cover you bases, just in case fate is watching.