Around this time of year, Lebanon folk will often bring up a Mischief Night/October 30 tradition of “tic-tacking”, which involves flicking corn kernels against the facade of a neighbor’s house.

Commentators in the Lebanon Valley and Lehigh Valley have suggested this tradition has local roots, but a check of the archives debunks this myth and reveals a new insight about the origins of the term.

That said, there is a kernel of truth to rumor — as a corn-growing region, ours was among the few American regions to see this practice reach the zeitgeist.

Some historic examples:

The Galesburg Enterprise, 1891 (Kansas)

Reno Gazette-Journal, 1903 (1903)

New Castle Herald, 1912 (New Castle, Pennsylvania)

The Circleville Herald, 1948 (1948)

The Alexandria Times-Tribune, 1953 (Alexandria, Indiana)

Latrobe Bulletin, 1969 (Latrobe)

In the course of researching this article, it became apparent that “tic-tacking” does not mean the same everywhere. In our region it does seem to refer to throwing shucked kernels of corn. But here’s what a Texas columnist said in 1985 regarding the term:

The Galveston Daily News, 1985 (Galveston)

Although tic-tacking is not defined in Merriam-Webster, it is in Urban Dictionary:

Do you remember tic-tacking in Lebanon? Did it ever refer to the straight pin/window prank, or was it always referring to throwing corn kernels?

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