- As with *knives and other sharp objects, tradition dictates that anyone who receives scissors as a present must give the donor a coin, otherwise the gift will 'cut the love' between them. The earliest known references (1507 and 1611) relate to knives in this context, but the first to refer specifically to scissors is also the first to mention the payment in return:Dearest brother, I give you a grate many thanks for the siszers you sent me by Mr. Shokman. I gave him sixpencs for fear tha should cute love one your side: but for mine 'tis to well gronded to fear ather siszers ar knifs cutting of it. (Letter from Elizabeth Went-worth, Feb. 1707, quoted in Opie and Tatem)The belief has been recorded regularly ever since that time, and is still current. There are a number of beliefs about dropping a pair of scissors, reported since the late 19th century, but with little agreement on what it means or what to do if it happens. Some maintain that if you drop a pair of scissors someone else must pick them up for you (also said of other everyday objects, such as *spoons, *umbrellas, etc.), while others say that if the points stick into the ground it is a sign of a wedding, or death, or more work on the way (for dressmakers). Igglesden adds: 'Should a sempstress drop her scissors accidentally it means a mourning order .. .' (c.1932: 209).Scissors were sometimes used as a defence against *witchcraft. If a pair was hidden under the doormat, no witch could enter the house; if behind a cushion, she would be uneasy in the room, and would soon leave, without harming anyone. Some said that scissors used in this way should be open, thus adding the power of the *cross to that of *iron and cutting edge.■ Opie and Tatem, 1989: 345.
A Dictionary of English folklore. Jacqueline Simpson & Steve Roud. 2014.