Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Is a condition I don't have, and an unnecessarily massive word to describe fear of Friday the 13th. Which makes me wonder why we have fancy names for phobias at all. I mean, do we really need to say we've got Coulrophobia? Can't we just say we're afraid of clowns? And would anyone know what the heck I was talking about if I said I had masklophobia; generally it's safer to say I'm afraid of mascots. To which people always reply "Of what? You mean like, at sports games? Who ever heard of someone afraid of mascots?" Well, there's enough people afraid of mascots that there's a word for it. I say it's just better survival instinct. You see a giant unfamiliar animal running toward you acting like a fool, and your first instinct isn't to run, I don't know what to tell you.
...and don't these words have Greek roots? I highly doubt the Greeks had mascots. 
Anyway, since it's going to be Friday the 13th in a couple of hours, I thought I'd talk a bit about it. According to, about 8% of Americans are afraid of Friday the 13th. Seems low to me, considering how careful some people are to step around it. Lots of buildings don't have 13th floors. Most hospitals don't have any rooms numbered 13. And Americans are pretty superstitious in general, I think. Seems like in the US, if we're told we should be scared of something, we usually go ahead and do it, just to be on the safe side. 
So fear of Friday the 13th is actually, according to How Stuff Works, is actually two fears combined - fear of the number 13 (Triskaidekaphobia) and fear of Fridays. I know a whole heck of a lot of people who are afraid of 13, but who the heck is afraid of Fridays? Workaholics? 
There are all kinds of theories as to why people think Friday the 13th is unlucky. The most popular theory is that there were 13 people at the Last Supper. Then there's the fact that Christ was crucified on a Friday, plus there are some Biblical types who think that Adam and Eve ate the fruit and were expelled from Eden on a Friday, though there's no biblical support for that, near as I can find.
How Stuff Works tells me that sailors especially used to be superstitious about Fridays, often refusing to ship out on a Friday. Fun tangential fact for you: research shows that the less control one feels that one has in a situation, the more likely they are to be superstitious. Because of the billion things that can go wrong at sea, sailors tend to be more superstitious than most. /tangent. So some years ago, the British Navy endeavored to allay sailors' fears about Friday by naming a ship on a Friday, sending it off on its maiden voyage on a Friday, and they hired a guy named Friday as the captain. A short time later, the ship and its entire crew disappears. On a Friday. I would guess that has less to do with bad luck and more to do with the fact that they hired a captain whose primary qualification was his name. Not usually a good idea.
Another reason folks are afraid of the number 13 may be that tradition holds that there are usually 12 witches in a coven, and if there is a 13th witch, that witch is actually the devil. Or something. I'm getting sleepy, but I don't seem to think that would make much sense if I was awake either.

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