What is a "Jonah?"
Now, accidents will happen to the most careful and the best of men, but the soldier whom I have been describing could be found in every squad in camp - that is, a man of his kind. Such men were called "Jonahs" on account of their ill luck. Perhaps this particular Jonah after getting his tin plate full of hot pea-soup was sure, on entering the tent, to spill a part of it down somebody's back. The higher he could hold it the better it seemed to please him as he made his way to his accustomed place in the tent, and in bringing it down into a latitude where he proposed to eat it he usually managed to dispose of much of the remainder, either on his own or somebody else's blankets.
When pea-soup failed him for a diversion, he was a dead shot on kicking over his neighbor's pot of coffee, which the owner had put down for a moment while he adjusted his lap-table to receive his supper. The profuseness of the Jonah's apologies - and they always were profuse, and undoubtedly sincere - was utterly inadequate as a balm for the wounds he made. Anybody else in the tent might have kicked the coffee to the remotest bounds of camp with malice aforethought, and it would not have produced a tithe of the aggravation which it did to have this constitutional blunderer do it by accident. - John D. Billings' Hard Tack and Coffee.