If you do, you’re probably cowering under your covers instead of reading this because today is Friday the 13th. Both of those delightfully king-sized words describe a fear of this supposedly evil and unlucky day.
Paraskavedekatriaphobia comes from the Greek word for Friday, Paraskevi. Here’s how to pronounce it.
Friggatriskaidekaphobia comes from the Norse Goddess for Friday—Frigg— in mythology. Here’s how to pronounce it.
And there’s another fun word— triskaidekaphobia— which is the fear of the number thirteen. Here’s how to pronounce it.
Commit these to memory and you can win bar bets galore and any game of Scrabble, assuming you amend the rules allowing for the turning of corners.
I’m not particularly superstitious, although I love that commercial that plays during football games with fans doing ridiculous things so their team wins. “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.” Not that I’ve worn my lucky Bronco socks and only eaten blue and orange food for the day. That would be silly. And clearly doesn’t work.
I’m not mocking anyone who has this phobia because at least 8% of the American population suffers from it. Symptoms can range from mild nervous giggling to full-blown panic attacks and refusing to leave home that day.
This fear has its seeds throughout history and across cultures and religions. In British culture, for instance, public hangings took place on Fridays and there were 13 steps to the gallows.
Conversely, the number 12 is associated with goodness or completeness—12 days of Christmas, 12 months, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 Krispy Kremes in a box, and such.
Personally, I think it’s simply a case of confirmation bias. If you’re superstitious about Friday the 13th, you’ll notice all the unlucky things you encounter on that day. But those unlucky things are just as likely to happen on Wednesday the 18th—you just don’t care or notice.
In National Geographic I read, “In other countries, Friday the 13th isn’t unlucky. For instance, in Spain, Tuesday the 13th is considered the day to dread. And in Italy, people fear the 17th day of any month. Why? Because the Roman numeral XVII (17) can be rearranged to spell “VIXI,” which means “my life is over” in Latin. But no one can prove that more terrible things occur on those days, either.”
Now, I said I didn’t have many superstitions, but then I started thinking about it. I don’t walk under ladders. I knock wood. I hunt for four-leaf clovers. I keep an old horseshoe going the right direction so the luck doesn’t run out. And I never, ever, EVER stepped on a crack lest I broke my mother’s back.
I have been known to gleefully break chain letters, however.
What about you? Are you superstitious? What are some of the funny ones you’ve heard? Does Friday the 13th hold any sway over you?