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A friend just pointed me here after I asked this on Facebook. I haven't had any luck there, so hopefully a more dedicated forum might help track it down. :)

This has been bugging me for about 20 years now. I remember in 8th grade, one time the teacher handed out scrap paper and the back of my sheet had the first page of a short story on it that I still remember. The basic premise was that there was some nebulous, potentially malevolent force living under/near a medieval or fantasy type village that would make wishes come true whether the wisher wanted it to be true or not. To the point, the first paragraph mentioned that nobody there wished anyone else "good morning", but rather just said "morning" in passing, because wishing someone a good morning would make it good at the expense of someone else.

I don't know if there was then payment expected to the force, or it if exacted payment, or if the double-edged fulfillment of the wish was enough of a cost. It sort of read like a "Lottery" type vibe... dystopian, social costs, etc.

So... anyone have any ideas? I don't even know how I'd try to look it up. To this day I usually say "morning" in passing instead of "good morning" to strangers, and it always reminds me of this story. I'd love to at least read the whole thing and know what it was about.

  • It's quite a comment trope; tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BeCarefulWhatYouWishFor – Valorum Jun 20 '14 at 0:22
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    'The World Where Wishes Worked' ?- smashwords.com/books/view/44027. – Valorum Jun 20 '14 at 0:25
  • I think you should try adding more details if you remember. – Pobrecita Jun 20 '14 at 0:35
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    Sorry, 14111, I'll clarify, since I kind of flubbed the subject there. What I meant was that the wish makers weren't intending for their wishes to come true. Something as simple as "wishing" someone a good morning was granted, even without wanting it to be. Not that the wish granter was unwilling... the wish askers were "unwilling", or at least had to be very careful. – Nathan Jun 20 '14 at 3:18
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    Not medieval, but there's a partial match at hasd.org/faculty/daniellegordon/ruleofnames.pdf where magic so saturates the town that everyone is cautious with their words, including saying "morning" instead of "good morning". – FuzzyBoots Jun 20 '14 at 4:50
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As per my comment above, Rule of Names by Ursula Le Guin might match.

To the point, the first paragraph mentioned that nobody there wished anyone else "good morning", but rather just said "morning" in passing, because wishing someone a good morning would make it good at the expense of someone else.

"Morning, Mr. Underhill," said the villagers as he passed them in the narrow street between houses with conical, overhanging roofs like the fat red caps of toadstools. "Morning, morning!" he replied to each. (It was of course bad luck to wish anyone a good morning; a simple statement of the time of day was quite enough, in a place so permeated with Influences as Sattins Island, where a careless adjective might change the weather for a week.) All of them spoke to him, some with affection, some with affectionate disdain. He was all the little island had in the way of a wizard, and so deserved respect-but how could you respect a little fat man of fifty who waddled along with his toes turned in, breathing

It is not a matter of there being a wish-granting entity, merely that magic is so prevalent in the town that it is liable to act upon the utterances of words. It is part of her Earthsea series.

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