BBC Countryfile Magazine


On a damp November evening in 1997, Discworld author Terry Pratchett had a bee in his bonnet. Or rather, a bird. He was at a book signing for his novel Jingo,buthis mind was on his upcoming work, Carpe Jugulum, which would feature magpies prominently.

Pratchett started asking everyone in the queue what variation of the magpie counting rhyme they knew. He was disheartened when person after person recited the same one:

One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told, Eight for a wish, Nine for a kiss, Ten for a bird, You must not miss.

This was the version made famous by the ’60s and ’70s children’s TV show . For Pratchett it was “like some cuckoo in the

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