Friday, March 13, 2009


The fine line between scepticism and tempting fate

Sometime in the 19th century, the Royal Navy attempted to finally dispel the old superstition among sailors that beginning a voyage on a Friday was certain to bring bad luck. To demonstrate the falseness of this belief, they decided to commission a ship named HMS Friday. Her keel was laid on a Friday, she was launched on a Friday, and she set sail on her maiden voyage on a Friday, under the command of a Captain James Friday. She was never seen or heard from again.

-Urban legend


What the legend doesn't mention is there was a woman on board. Oh, and that her hobby was shooting albatrosses with an air rifle. And she had a black cat.

And that some idiot put her in charge of the gyroscope.

Personally, I'm not superstitious - wait for the inevitable "but" - but most of these superstitions have a solid basis in common sense, so it's not a good idea to mess around with them.

I present to you, my sceptical reader, Dan's explanation of why so-called superstitions are completely logical and fair enough:

In many countries, the number thirteen is considered unlucky and generally bad. Originally, this is because it's one more passenger than you can fit into three taxis: you have to get a fourth taxi, which hits everyone in the pocket. In Japan, the number nine is considered bad luck as it is one person more than you can fit into two taxis.

The Japanese also consider the number 4 unlucky, citing some waffle about inauspicious pronunciation.

Dan says bull, and here's why:

the first four numbers in Japanese

"As easy as 1-2-3" is particularly apt for the Japanese writing system, but a lot of Japanese school kids don't get a firm handle on writing "4" until they're well into their teens.

So there we have it: so-called superstitions are actually the wisdom of the ages and are not to be sneezed at.

Mind how you go!


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