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Learn English 112 Article
Why Do People Worry About The Number 13
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Now in your country, do you have a superstition about the number 13?
Hi there I’m Hilary and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. Let us help you with your English language learning. Much of what we offer you is completely free, so if you like what we’re doing, then please like us on Facebook and give us some positive feedback. Share your experience of learning English with us!
Now in your country, do you have a superstition about the number 13? First of all, you may not know the word superstition. A superstition is a belief, something that you believe to be true, even though there may be little scientific fact to support your belief. And if you’re someone who believes in superstition, then the word we would use to describe you is ‘superstitious’. So ‘superstition’ is the noun and ‘superstitious’ is the adjective. A superstition is also a belief which tends to say that something bad, something negative will happen to you, if you don’t do what the superstition says you should. Bad luck will come to you in some way or other. So in the UK, we have quite a lot of superstitions – for example if you break a mirror, some people believe that you will have bad luck, your life will go badly for seven years! That’s a bit tough. Or another one is that there will be bad luck for you if you put up an umbrella inside the house. There are historical reasons for these superstitions, but sometimes the reasons for them are lost in time.
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Many positive and negative superstitions concern numbers
And we have superstitions around the number 13. This is so much the case that where you have houses in a street that are numbered and this forms part of the address of the house – e.g. North Street might be a typical address in the UK. If the number of the house is 13, then that is considered unlucky by some people. And this is so much so, that sometimes when houses are built, the number 13 is missed altogether when the house numbers are decided. According to Zoopla, a UK property website, only 28% of streets in the UK have a number 13 house. So usually they just missed it out. Or maybe quite a lot of streets don’t have more than 13 houses. Or what some people do sometimes – and I notice that my neighbours at number 13 in our road have done this – they just give their house a name instead of a number. The belief in the bad luck associated with the number 13 is so widespread that a third of people say that they would not buy a house with the number 13. And the price of a house which has the number 13 may be cheaper by about 3%. With the value of properties in the UK, that’s quite a lot of money, a few thousand pounds! So if you aren’t superstitious and you want to buy a house in the UK, then it’s worth knowing that!
Other cultures have other numbers which they believe to be lucky or unlucky. In the UK, the belief that the number 13 is unlucky probably comes from the Christian religion. If you go with the Easter story, then the 13th disciple, the 13th follower of Jesus, was Judas and he was the one who betrayed him. So I think that is where it comes from originally, but other cultures, other countries perhaps have different explanations for believing the number 13 to be unlucky.
Superstitions are nothing to do with religion
So as I’ve said to you before, the majority of people in the UK are actually not Christian any more, but the belief in the unluckiness of number 13 continues. And in fact last Friday fell on the 13th April and Friday the 13th is considered unlucky by lots of people. There are even a set of horror movies called Friday the 13th – not something I like, but there you are.
So again, if you are not superstitious, you can take advantage of this. There’s evidence to suggest that if you buy an airline flight on Friday 13th, then it may be cheaper, it may cost you less money. And this isn’t a small amount cheaper – it could be as much as 30% or 40% cheaper if you’re happy to travel on Friday 13th.
Why not turn peoples belief in superstitions to your advantage
Another thing which is reported - insurance companies report fewer claims on Friday 13th – that’s less claims - fewer. Just let me explain some words here. An insurance company is a business – examples would be Zurich Insurance, AXA, Prudential, Allianz – and you can pay them to cover risk. So if you drive your car and you have an accident, your insurer is the company that pays for the repair.
So these companies have statistics – they can see the number of accidents of various kinds that happen on a particular day. And surprisingly, there are fewer car accidents on Friday 13th than on other days. People go out less. They decide not to go out for the day, or maybe people are more careful when they do go out or when they’re driving their cars. So again, if you’re not superstitious, then perhaps Friday 13th is a really good day to go out – the roads won’t be as busy and maybe you won’t have to queue so much to get into places. Maybe you’ll have a nicer time!
Lots of films play on superstitions
So last Friday was Friday 13th. If you’re not superstitious and you want to take advantage of things being cheaper or less busy on Friday 13th, then you don’t have to wait that long for the next one. In fact, the next Friday 13th is in July. So plan your day, and you never know, you may be able to save some money. Or you might decide to go along with the superstition and stay at home in bed!