The 13th, a good day to review popular...


May 13, 1994

IT'S FRIDAY the 13th, a good day to review popular superstitions. In a delightful collection entitled "Hodgepodge: A Commonplace Book," (Atheneum, 1986) J. Bryan III, notes that the word itself comes from the Latin superstare, "to stand over or near a thing, in amazement, dread, religious awe, or scruple."

He then recounts a number of notable people who embraced various superstitions:

To change the name and not the letter,

Is a change for the worse and not for the better.

Wallis Warfield divorced Win Spencer and married Ernest Simpson, then divorced him and married the Duke of Windsor. But a superstition she did observe was the one that holds peacock feathers unlucky. In "The Windsor Story" the Duchess has told how a friend innocently sent her a peacock-feather fan, when she was married to Spencer, a naval aviator: "I ran out and put it on the gate, for someone to find and take away. I was convinced that if I kept it, Win would be killed that very day."

* * * WHEN Nicola Tesla, the electrical genius, stayed at a hotel, he insisted that his room number be divisible by three; nor would he eat a morsel of food until he had calculated its cubic contents.

* * * HELEN Wills frequently appeared on the tennis court in two left shoes. Gene Tunney would never enter the ring first. Jack Sharkey would never let his managers pull on his right-hand glove. Kid Chocolate always insisted that his left shoe-lace be tied at the back of his ankle. Bobby Jones wore the same pair of "lucky" knickers until they were hardly more than threads and patches.

-- J. Bryan III

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