When it comes to bad luck, there are few superstitions as pervasive in Western culture as that of Friday the 13th. Like crossing paths with a black cat and breaking a mirror, the notion of a day that can bring misfortune is deeply embedded — even if believers can’t quite explain why.
There’s even a name to describe the irrational dread of the date: paraskevidekatriaphobia — a specialized form of triskaidekaphobia, a fear of the number 13.
While Friday the 13th may feel like a rare phenomenon, our Gregorian calendar means that the 13th of any month is slightly more likely to fall on a Friday than any other day of the week.
It is not, however, a universal superstition: In Greece and Spanish-speaking countries, it is Tuesday the 13th that is considered a day of bad luck, while in Italy, it is Friday the 17th that is met with fear.
Whatever the origin, religious or secular, Friday plus 13 equals a paralyzing, debilitating fear for millions of Americans.
Paraskevidekatriaphobia, as coined by psychotherapist Donald Dossey of the Stress Management Center-Phobia Institute in Ashville, N.C., bedevils “people with blind, unreasoning fear of this day and date, as opposed to those who have a clear, reasonable fear of not being able to say that word,” according to the institute’s website.
Dossey tells patients, “Paraskevidekatriaphobia – when you learn to pronounce it, you’re cured.”
Unpronounceable phobias have an ironic identification…
Sesquipedaliophobia is the fear of long words, which has morphed into the contrived word hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia.
By either spelling, of course, sufferers would be hard-pressed to read between the lines.