Friday, January 13, 2006

Paraskevidekatriaphobia is for losers

Today is Friday, the Thirteenth. [Kushibo starts wailing in a spooky voice] Woooo oooooooh!

Some of you may have had something major planned today and decided to cancel it. If that's you, then get a grip on reality, ya' milksop. Get out of bed and stop blaming bad fortune on supersitions. Today is no luckier or unluckier for you than yesterday or tomorrow.

This is a public service message brought to you by MADD and this station.

Paraskevidekatriaphobia, the fear of Friday, the Thirteenth (different from triskaidekaphobia, which is just fear of the number thirteen, whatever day of the week it is) is fairly prevalent in the United States, I guess.

Fear of the number thirteen in general is widespread enough that it is avoided where practical. I remember visiting the Mayo Clinic (family worked there) as a kid and seeing that the elevator numbers went from the 12th floor to the 14th floor; no listing of 13. How stupid, I thought! Why force people working on the 13th floor to walk up or down a flight of stairs just because of some superstition about having elevators stop there?!

In my hometown of Orange County, California, fear of the number 13 is so prevalent, that most buildings don't have a thirteenth floor. Most stop at two stories, eleven floors shy of the dreaded 13th floor.

This may also be due to a fear of earthquakes, but how often do those happen? If it weren't for an occasional quake every now and then, most OCers would have nothing to talk about. Being in a tremor while 150 feet above the ground would enhance the story. Wimps!

In Korea and some other East Asian countries, the fear is not of the number thirteen, but the number four. This is because in Korean (and Japanese), the pronunciation of the Chinese character for four (四) is the same as that for death (死, I think).

That's why, in many buildings, especially high rises, the fourth floor is not designated as such in the elevator; rather, the elevator buttons are labeled as 1, 2, 3, F, 5, 6, 7, etc. (This is true in my apartment building as well). The 'F,' of course, is from the number four. Many students would disagree that the letter F is really any less unlucky (I wore a Flip-brand T-shirt with a big letter F on it during my American students' exam, and more than one commented on it bringing bad luck).

Apparently, though, the number 4 is not unlucky when included in building or apartment numbers, so the same F floor might be in Building 401동 and will likely have a 401호, 402호, 403호, etc. I guess the superstition only extends to elevators; no doubt it was concocted by Asian Luddites who also thought cameras will steal their soul.

I personally think this, too, is hogwash, though for real estate value purposes, I wouldn't want them to change the F to a 4. I live on the 5th floor, and from time to time I can hear what is going on in the apartment below. I can attest that someone there is occasionally getting lucky. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

  1. Superstitions may seem silly today, but you should realize that a world based only on scientific "facts", and devoid of weird beliefs, would be a boring one indeed.

    Actually, certain numbers, like 12 and 60 are central to the astronomy and calendars of many nations, as they embody basic rations of the movements of the sun and moon. Numbers like 13 are taken as being beyond the known universe. I find it interesting, although I don't really alter my life to fit this ominous day!

    "Enlightened", unsuperstitious people today can easily fall into the trap of believing in nothing beyond what they see and hear. I'll take strange superstitions anyday.

    By the way, Kushibo, your crazy word for "fear of friday the thirteenth" is amusing. As a student of linguistics, I am always impressed by how foreign words acquire a near mystical status. Latin and Greek constructs are used in English for things such as "Fear of Friday the Thirteenth", even though the Latin/Greek has the exact same meaning, morpheme for morpheme. In law and other "esteemed" fields, using English words when a difficult sounding Latin/Greek word is available would be a sign of poor education.

    In East Asia, Chinese was long the magic language of choice, with strange Chinese characters used in place of native words on any "important" documents or monuments.

    Today we take using Latin or Chinese in place of perfectly good, and equivalent, native words for granted. Perhaps future generations will laugh at us for this silliness, just as we laugh today at the superstitious of bygone ages!


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