Friday the 13 th's word of the day: paraskavedekatriaphobia
"I'm not coming out of the house," Sharp said Thursday, before correcting herself. "I'm going to get my paycheck and then I'm not coming out."
Sharp, an 18-year-old sales associate from North Charleston, believes Friday the 13th to be unlucky, much like walking under ladders and black cats crossing her path (she's afraid of those, too.)
To her, spending the day outside might tempt the fates and perhaps result in a car wreck. "I don't go nowhere, for real," she said. "It's a bad luck day."
While most Americans consider Friday the 13th just another day, the fear that something bad could happen (being forced to sit through "Friday the 13th Part X," for instance) is very real for some.
There's even a scientific term for being afraid of Friday the 13th: paraskavedekatriaphobia. Try saying that three times, or even once. (Hint: It rhymes with "Share Us a Way Make a Try"-aphobia.)
The fear is pervasive enough in our society that there are several Web sites — not FDA-approved, mind you — that promise they can correct the problem in the time it takes to put new brakes on your car. Experts advise those who do have a paralyzing fear of the day to seek professional help.
Edmund Kern, associate professor of history at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., specializes in religious culture and the history of magic and witchcraft. Superstitions evolve through association and stories rather than meaning and logic, he said, and can be put in perspective by looking at the historical origins:
The belief that the number 13 is a bad omen goes back to the ancient Romans, Kern said. The fear of Friday dates to the 14th century and Geoffrey Chaucer, who considered it an unlucky day to begin a trip, he said, though the combination of Friday and 13 being a bad omen didn't emerge until the late 19th or early 20th century, likely brought on by the spread of mass media (we're always happy to help).
"There's no reason or rationality behind superstitions," Kern said. "I think superstitions persist because they offer some sense of control in a world that is largely beyond our control."
Courtney Palmer, a saleswoman from Charleston, said she used to believe Friday the 13th was unlucky until her daughter was born on July 13 last year. "I used to be (superstitious) until Jamie was born, and I realized her birthday was going to be on Friday the 13th every seven years," Palmer said.
She's still superstitious about other things, though. Her daughter broke a mirror recently, and Palmer can't help but wonder whether that played a part in little Jamie's cold or diaper rash.
Others fly in the face of superstitions. "Thirteen is my lucky number," Marie Sando of Summerville said. "I play 13 when I play the Lotto." She might not have won big money, but that's beside the point. Melissa Lee, a 23-year-old tattoo artist and body piercer says she intentionally does unlucky things on Friday the 13th to prove it's all a bunch of hooey.
"I look forward to it," Lee said. "I'll walk under ladders, play with a black cat, just to have people stare at me."
You just don't get that sort of attention on Mondays.