O'Brien County's Bell-Times-Courier -

A Bad Case of Friggatriskaidekaphobia


March 12, 2020

Dorothy Rosby

More than 17 million Americans suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia though they seldom admit it, mainly because they can't pronounce it.

Loosely translated, friggatriskaidekaphobia means, "I'd like to buy a vowel, Pat." I'm joking! The word is derived from two others: Frigga, the Norse goddess for whom Friday is named, and triskaidekaphobia, which is an irrational fear of very large words.

I'm lying. Triskaidekaphobia is a fear of the number 13. But there is a word for the fear of very large words. It's hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, and I'm not making that up, because how could I?

By now, you've probably guessed that friggatriskaidekaphobia is actually a fear of Friday the 13th. If it weren't for the cut and paste function on my computer, I'd be writing about St. Patrick's Day instead. But this is an important topic since we have a Friday the 13th coming up on, well, Friday the 13th. So I think it's high time we get our friggatriskaidekaphobia under control.

If you're going to be afraid of a day, it makes sense that it would be Friday the 13th. Tuesday the 12th just doesn't have the historical baggage.

Friday's bad reputation may have its roots in Christian tradition. Jesus was crucified on a Friday, and some people think Eve gave Adam the apple on Friday and Cain killed Abel on Friday. That seems like pure speculation to me though, since the calendar hadn't been invented yet.

Thirteen has always gotten a bad rap. Traditionally 12 is like a favorite child, perfect in every way. There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs in the zodiac and 12 days of Christmas. Somehow that makes 13 less than perfect and downright unlucky. The result is high rises without 13th floors, airports without 13th gates and airplanes without 13th aisles. I don't mean to worry anyone, but I think the 13th floor is the 13th floor whether you call it 14th or 55th. Calling it by another name just makes a fool out of us and a liar out of the guy who puts the numbers on the elevator buttons.

There's even an old superstition that says if you have 13 letters in your name, you're cursed. Believers in this theory point out that many notorious murderers had names with 13 letters in them. And it is true that Adolf Hitler's baptismal name was actually Adolfus Hitler. Then there's Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Jack the Ripper. But I doubt very much that Jack's surname was "the Ripper," and if it was, it's no wonder he turned out like he did.

Anyway, before I was married, I also had 13 letters in my name and I somehow managed to refrain from becoming a serial killer. I now have 12 and I'm as perfect as a dozen eggs, just like Elvis Presley, Oprah Winfrey and Mother Teresa.

If you ask me, the friggatriskaidekaphobia issue was made worse in 1980 with the release of the horror movie, Friday the 13th. I never saw it because I was afraid it would ruin Friday the 13th for me in the same way the movie Psycho ruined showers for me. Don't worry. I still take them.

Whatever the reason, the fear of Friday the 13th has serious consequences. Millions of Americans, suffer unnecessary anxiety, and businesses suffer $800 million dollars in lost revenue because so many people call in sick with a bad case of friggatriskaidekaphobia.

If you're living in a friggatriskaidekaphobic prison of your own making, you could stay home on Friday the 13th, wrap yourself in bubble wrap and play Scrabble using the new words you've just learned.

Or like me, you could go about your business, confident that you'll be as safe as you are any other day and maybe safer. With all the friggatriskaidekaphobes staying home, there will be fewer people on the road.

(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books including Alexa's a Spy and Other Things to Worry About, Humorous Essays on the Hazards of Our Time coming soon. Contact drosby@rushmore.com.)


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