Perspective: It’s Friday the 13th, I’m afraid

OWN up now, how many of you let Friday pass without noting that it was the 13th day of the month?

I would guess that there were only a few, for research shows that here in the UK a massive 80 per cent of us are living our lives according to old wives’ tales.

If you don’t believe that, how often do you touch wood for safety or cross your fingers for good luck?

How about walking under ladders, not opening an umbrella indoors, not putting new shoes on a table or thinking that breaking a mirror will bring seven years of bad luck?

Apparently, one and a half million Brits follow superstitions more than ten times a day.


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I can’t think of a reason why, but Friday the 13th has always been a favourite of mine.

As the latest one came and went – without any great incident – I did a bit of research and discovered two very long words new to me, both of them to do with the fear of Friday the 13th.

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One of them, originating from Scandinavia, is friggatriskaidekaphobia. Try saying that quickly. Frigga is the free-spirited Norse goddess of love and fertility after whom Friday is named. The rest of the word means fear of the number 13.

The Greek were never ones to be outdone, of course, and their word for dreading Friday the 13th is paraskevidekatriaphobia.

Don’t forget these now, they could come in handy. In the Gregorian calendar, we get at least one Friday the 13th a year and sometimes up to three so there is the chance to regularly impress one’s friends with one’s knowledge.

You have missed the opportunity this year which has just the one Friday the 13th but there is a bumper crop of them in 2012. Keep practising saying the words.

Friday has been considered an unlucky day at least since the 14th century, I learn. Interestingly, there seems to be no written evidence for a Friday the 13th superstition before the 19th century which, if true, means that it has only been around for about as long as Christmas cards.

Until recent years when recycling became a bit of a craze, Yuletide missives professing good wishes or love were often put away in cupboards and drawers to be looked at again as cherished items.

Some of them ended up in boxes stored in lofts where they languished for many a long year, eventually being hauled out to be opened once more, perhaps by the grandchildren of those who put them there in the first place. By then they had become treasures of the family.

It used to be that snapshots would also be included in the boxes, but I fear that tradition could be heading for oblivion.

The reason, of course, is digital photography. Less than one in 10 people admit to developing their pictures these days. Even more worryingly, a third say they do not back up their digital images, so all could be lost with one wrong push of a button.

That’s enough to wipe the smile off your face and your descendants.

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