Translation musings: turn around three times and spit…

Dec 13, 2013 | World events

lucky horseshoeSo, today is Friday 13th – a day associated with bad luck and (bad?) horror movies. According to Wikipedia, the first time this particular superstition was documented was in a biography of composer Gioachino Rossini, who regarded both Fridays and the number 13 as unlucky – as indeed did many Italians at that time. It turned out to be especially portent for poor old Gioachino, who died on Friday 13th November 1868. But where did it all start?

Let’s look at the number 13 first. In numerology, 12 pops up a lot and is considered to be divine – there are 12 months, 12 hours,  12 zodiac signs, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles of Jesus, 12 successors of Muhammad, 12 gods of Olympus – the list goes on. The number 13, therefore, is considered a bit messy – irregular. An early superstition, which may’ve come from the Last Supper or possibly an earlier Norse myth, is that thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of them.

And what about the Friday bit? I like a Friday, personally! Again, it has a number of possible origins. It has been considered unlucky since at least the time of the Canterbury Tales (that Chaucer, again!) and many professions consider it a bad day to go on a journey, or start a new project. The crucifixion of Jesus, of course, took place on a Friday. But this part of the story does seem to be a little more sketchy…

So, eventually the two superstitions joined forces and became one BIG superstition. This may’ve happened as recently as the 20th century, but who knows?! But at least we’ve got a name for it; in fact we’ve got two!

Friggatriskaidekaphobia – deriving from the Norse goddess Frigga (from which we get Friday) and triskaidekaphobia – the fear of the number thirteen.

Or , if you prefer the Greek version: paraskevidekatriaphobia – from Παρασκευή (or Paraskeví  – Friday), δεκατρείς (dekatreísthirteen) and φοβία (phobía – fear).

So, enjoy your Friday 13th – but be sure to watch out for black cats under ladders.


image credit: haiinee @ stock.xchng