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Friday, May 13, 2016


If you looked at the title of this post and decided that I am making up words, you need to know right now that I am not. Okay, well, just a little bit, at the end. I have made up words on more than one occasion, and hope to keep on spontaneously doing so, but the title is based on an actual word. Friggatriskaidekaphobia is that real word, and its roots break down like this:

Frigga, the Norse goddess after whom Friday is named,
tris or treis, which means three
kai, meaning and, 
deka, or ten, and
phobia for fear.

When you put them all together into friggatriskaidekaphobia you get fear of Friday the 13th. If you use all Greek roots, the fear of Friday the 13th is paraskevidekatriaphobia, but that word is just too darn hard for me to write, and friggatriskaidekaphobia sounds so sassy. The little sibling of these words is triskaidekaphobia, which is simply fear of the number thirteen.

Today is Friday the 13th and lots of people are nervous about going to work or out with friends. Many people will call in sick to work or cancel airline or other travel reservations on this date. Some folks, I've heard, will refuse to leave their home because they are so convinced that something terrible will happen to them on this date. As a result, there tend to be fewer accidents and mishaps on Friday the 13th than on other Fridays. 

There's no definitive explanation of why people are afraid of this date. Some think that it dates back to Friday October 13, 1307 and events involving the Knights Templar, but I have read that this only became part of the legend behind the superstition in the 19th century. And in some countries it's Friday the 17th that's considered bad luck, or Tuesday the 13th. There are undoubtedly loads of reasons for the varying days of the week and numbers, like Tuesday being the day of Mars, the god of war, (hence the name martes for Tuesday in Spanish, for example) but I really didn't want to delve too deeply into that today. If you wish to do so and learn something interesting (or better yet, fascinating), please do let me know.

As for me, I love the number 13. My birthday happens to be on the 13th of a month, just not this one. I wasn't born on Friday the 13th, it was a Monday, but I love it when my birthday falls on a Friday. And how's this for fun - my thirteenth birthday was on Friday the 13th! Awesome! Other people that I've met over the years who have a birthday on the 13th also seem to enjoy Friday the 13th, as well as the number 13 in general. My cousin Viki's birthday is on the 13th, and I know that she loves it, too.

Because of the fears and superstitions surrounding the number 13, many hotels do not formally have a 13th floor. They may be more than twelve stories tall, but the elevator numbers and floor/room/suite/office numbers go straight from 12 to 14. If it makes people feel safer and more secure, it doesn't bother me. And I'm hoping that it doesn't or didn't bother others who share my birthday, meaning month and day. I don't imagine that one of my Hungarian heroes, Erno Rubik, inventor of the mental torture device known as Rubik's Cube, quits creating new and exciting things because it's Friday the 13th. And Julius Caesar (date not wholly confirmed but strongly rumored) probably didn't refuse to go to battle because Friday the 13th had rolled around.

And if Sir Francis Drake (again, unconfirmed as to exact date of birth) had said, "Nay, men, take thee down the sails. Friday the 13th hath befallen us. We doth not sail on this wretched and cursed day," well, he wouldn't have gotten very far. And some screen characters would probably be remembered differently if Cheech Marin, Patrick Stewart, and Harrison Ford refused to work on Friday the 13th. Very few directors would want to work with actors who refused to leave their hotels during a day of filming.

My point isn't to brag about the people with whom I share birthdays. It's simply this - if we let the concept of a number and day of the week in combination rule our lives, we might miss out on a lot. So pet a black cat, grab your Rubik's Cube, and invite 13 friends and family to go out for dinner. Maybe if you leave your frigging friggatriskaidekaphobia behind you'll have a lot of fun!


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