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fear of Friday the thirteenth
'For those of a superstitious disposition, or suffering from acute paraskevidekatriaphobia, the portents for the World Chess Championship could not have been more ill: if Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov were unable to decide their reunification match in the tiebreak games, then "Armageddon" (a blitz shoot-out), on Friday 13, no less, was in prospect.'The Guardian 19th October 2006
'Paraskevidekatriaphobics have a morbid fear of Friday the 13th, which falls at least once a year and sometimes three times, and will be dreading 2009, the next triple whammy year …'The Observer 6th July 2003
'According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C., U.S. companies will lose $800 million to $900 million in business owing to paraskevidekatriaphobes who refuse to travel or go to work on Friday the 13th.'MSNBC News 13th August 2004
Are you the sort of person that will never walk under a ladder or put your umbrella up inside? If so, the chances are that you'll also avoid sitting in seat number 13, and that the second Friday in November 2009 is a particular source of anxiety for you …
It's a bizarre thing, but apparently true, that a substantial number of us would confess to feeling slightly anxious when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday. There is in fact a name for this phenomenon – and get ready because it's rather a mouthful – paraskevidekatriaphobia. Those of us who would be reluctant to choose Friday 13th for anything important can logically be referred to as paraskevidekatriaphobes or alternatively paraskevidekatriaphobics. The latter form is also used as an adjective, e.g. a paraskevidekatriaphobic person.
no-one is quite certain why people associate Friday the 13th with bad luck
No-one is quite certain why people associate Friday the 13th with bad luck. Various theories have been put forward over the years, including Friday as the day of Christ's crucifixion and the ancient Egyptian belief that the 13th stage of life is death. Whatever the roots of this irrational fear, it seems to represent a very real concern to many people, so much so that a 1993 article in the British Medical Journal investigated the relation between 'health, behaviour and superstition surrounding Friday the 13th in the United Kingdom'. The study reported the surprising finding that, despite the fact that fewer people chose to travel on Friday 13th, there were significantly more hospital admissions due to accidents than there were on 'normal' Fridays!
If you think that you might be a closet paraskevidekatriaphobe, then the following facts could come in handy: first, sorry folks, but every year has at least one Friday 13th; second, if the first day of the month falls on a Sunday, then brace yourself, Friday 13th is on its way; third, some years have as many as three Friday 13ths – and 2009 was one of them!
The term paraskevidekatriaphobia was first coined in the early nineties by Dr. Donald E. Dossey, an American psychotherapist specialising in phobias and stress management, who reputedly claimed that when someone was able to pronounce the word they were cured. The term is based on the Greek words paraskevi ('Friday') and dekatria ('thirteen') with -phobia as a suffix to indicate 'fear'.
A related term is triskaidekaphobia, from Greek tris ('three'), kai ('and'), and deka ('ten'), which was coined in the early twentieth century to refer to fear of the number thirteen generally, but is often also associated with fear of Friday the 13th. This word forms the basis of a lexical variant friggatriskaidekaphobia, also meaning 'fear of Friday 13th'. The prefix frigga is based on the name of an ancient Scandinavian goddess who was associated with witchcraft and Friday (the witches' sabbath).
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This updated article was first published on 11th November 2009.
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